Virtual Reality Headsets: Fun New Toy Or Liability Nightmare?

Being a kid at heart, I always hopeful that my Christmas gifts will include a toy. Knowing that to be the case, my parents delivered this year by gifting me a virtual reality headset. Admittedly, I was perplexed when I opened the present. I was aware of the concept – a stereoscopic display and head motion tracking sensors, immersing users in a virtual reality experience – but I did not comprehend the appeal. I assumed the VR experience would have about as much flare as 3D, the first five minutes of fun is outweighed by the doldrums of wearing a pair of ridiculous glasses. But, hey, I got my toy. Why not give it a shot?

Well, I did. Now, I totally understand the VR appeal. Without getting into all of the technical (which I admittedly don’t understand anyways), VR delivers in all of the ways that 3D does not. While 3D movie watching gives added depth of picture and certain effects that “jump out” at the audience, VR puts the user directly into the scene. The problem with 3D alone is that regardless of the effect, the audience is always watching the film on a flat, two-dimensional screen (even if it is a really, really big IMAX screen). VR takes away that limitation, giving the user a full 360 degrees of 3D viewing pleasure.

Technology aside, the biggest draw of VR is the vast array of content. On my first day of use, I cage-dived with great white sharks off the coast of South Africa, walked through the streets of Paris, participated in a fight with the Suicide Squad, and stood in a dinosaur habitat in Jurassic Park – from my living room. Chances are that if there is something you want to see or do, there is probably a virtual experience waiting for you with a VR headset.

As great as the experience has been (and still is), the lawyer in me just had to come out after a few days of use. What are the risks/liabilities of using a VR headset? How are these VR headset manufacturers going to be sued? I am not talking about a slip and fall on the virtual Champ Elysees. But, what are the potential health effects of using VR? The product comes with a long list of warnings both in the box and on-screen upon every startup about dizziness, nausea, not to be used by children under 13, etc. But, something tells me that will not be enough. At this time, the long-term effects of using VR are unknown and could be an issue down the road. Only time will tell.

For now, I am going to continue to enjoy the experience. As with anything in life, we assume moderation if the best course of action. How many adventures do we really need each day anyways?

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