VR headsets are unlikely to replace monitors any time soon
VR sickness has been a common concern for business leaders and employees ever since immersive devices began entering the workplace. As the market for extended reality has grown, companies in virtually every industry have started discovering the benefits of immersion.
With VR headsets, business leaders can rapidly enhance workplace collaboration, improve training sessions, and foster higher levels of creativity and innovation. As a result, some early adopters are even beginning to consider VR headsets as a replacement for the traditional computer monitor.
Unfortunately, the side effects associated with using immersive devices could prevent this transition. As more companies adopt VR, new research highlights various issues.
Let’s explore whether VR sickness will prevent immersive headsets from becoming the ultimate monitor replacement.
VR Sickness in the Workplace: The Latest Research
VR sickness is the sense of nausea and unease many experience after being exposed to an immersive experience for an extended period. Research has already shown some people are more susceptible to this issue than others. For instance, women, and people over the age of 50, are generally more likely to feel unwell after using a VR headset.
However, recent research reveals that VR sickness could be an issue for the entire workforce. According to one study, some symptoms experienced by VR users are similar to those we feel when sitting at a desk or monitor all day. These include neck and shoulder pain, eye strain, fatigue, and headaches. However, the nature of VR can also introduce new avenues for discomfort.
The research found information overwhelm and disconnections between reality and digital content can lead to significant issues with nausea, reduced focus, and memory retention. Around 80% of VR users now report mild to severe short-term side effects after using headsets.
Not only are these symptoms of VR sickness detrimental to employee wellbeing, but they could harm productivity too. In the report above, many participants said the side effects of VR made it harder to complete basic tasks like writing and reading emails.
Can Employees Overcome VR Sickness?
Though the symptoms of VR sickness can be severe, they’re not insurmountable. Similar to tackling issues like motion sickness, employees and their employers can tackle the problem of VR side effects.
Calibrating a headset properly can reduce visual discomfort caused by VR screens. Taking regular breaks and entering the VR landscape slowly can be beneficial too. However, one of the most effective ways to reduce VR sickness is to reduce exposure to virtual reality.
Most experts recommend reducing the length of virtual reality sessions to minimize discomfort. This might be difficult in an environment where headsets replace the standard monitor. After all, eliminating the traditional monitor would make employees reliant on their headsets for every activity.
Fortunately, innovators in the VR and extended reality worlds are taking measures to reduce user sickness and side effects. This could mean future devices are more suited to replacing the standard monitor than previous products. Modern solutions include:
1. Improved spatial tracking
Sensors capable of tracking movement in virtual reality can significantly reduce symptoms of VR sickness. Some of the first headsets on the market only featured 3-degrees of freedom tracking. This prevented users from moving around a landscape and seeing the space transform.
6-degrees of freedom tracking and advanced spatial monitoring give users a greater sense of movement within a virtual environment. This reduces the feeling of disorientation which can cause nausea, minimizing conflicting brain signals.
2. Enhanced user interfaces
Another factor that can influence VR motion sickness is using certain types of controllers. Handheld controllers cause a disconnect between what we’re physically doing and the environment we’re seeing. This sensory conflict leads to disorientation and discomfort.
Companies like Apple, with the Apple Vision Pro, are introducing new user interfaces that don’t rely on controllers. These headsets allow users to interact naturally with content using their hands, gestures, and eye movements. Moreover, pass-through technology can let users look down and see their hands in a virtual space.
3. Reduced latency
Latency is another major contributor to VR sickness. The more time it takes for a device to register in-app movements and actions, the more confusion your brain feels. Innovators like Meta and Nvidia are investing in new technologies to help minimize latency.
Headsets are launching with much faster displays, capable of rapidly responding to eye movement and gestures. As the industry develops and new screens and solutions are introduced, latency issues will likely decrease. Using AI and 5G in the XR landscape could also reduce the disconnect between VR headsets and their software.
Is VR Sickness the Only Challenge Facing Developers?
Innovations in headset design, software development, and new tracking technologies are tackling the issue of VR sickness. This could mean companies can eventually replace monitors and traditional devices with wearable headsets without harming team well-being.
However, it’s worth noting that VR sickness isn’t the only challenge developers and teams must overcome. Other problems include:
One of the biggest use cases for VR in the business world is immersive collaboration. Headsets and software can effectively bring teams together in a unique virtual world. This is crucial when remote and hybrid work is becoming more common.
However, VR can create a disconnect too. The less realistic and human the virtual experiences accessed by a user are, the more isolated they’re likely to feel. In some cases, headsets can make connecting with people in the real world harder. Companies like Apple are exploring this issue, introducing features like “EyeSight” to improve collaboration.
VR sickness might not affect human beings on a physical level only. Even as companies invest in more realistic avatars for the “metaverse,” many users feel an “uncanny valley” effect when interacting in VR. This can lead to anxiety and stress among users.
VR used in training sessions might lead to an increased level of stress when users are exposed to worrying situations and simulations. Additionally, the more time users spend in a virtual world, the more likely they feel disconnected from the real world. Some studies suggest users with mental health issues should generally avoid VR headsets.
Security and ethical risks
As virtual and extended reality technologies grow in popularity, new ethical and security risks are emerging. The rise of criminal activities in VR environments has even prompted an increase in organizations like the Metaverse Standards Forum.
VR environments could increase the risk of social engineering attacks in business environments. Plus, if headsets and software lack general privacy control standards, this could lead to compliance issues. Some applications may collect and store sensitive data that damages a company’s security standing. Specific headsets can even capture biometric data, impacting user privacy significantly.
Should VR Headsets Replace Monitors?
Using a compact VR headset instead of a standard monitor can be appealing. With a VR headset, users can access a virtually infinite environment for productivity. There are no restrictions regarding screen size or what kinds of content can be accessed.
Plus, VR provides users with an immersive environment to collaborate effectively with their colleagues. The right technology can bring teams together, improve the retention of training data, and contribute to innovation. At the same time, with a VR headset, users are less likely to be exposed to distractions in the outside world.
However, there are some downsides to using a headset as a replacement monitor. VR sickness is one clear issue experienced by many users. Even as headsets become more advanced, most people can only briefly use VR before experiencing symptoms. Eye strain, nausea, and general discomfort could all impact employee productivity.
Moreover, there are other challenges to overcome, from issues with ethics and security to problems with social connectivity and psychological well-being. These problems will need to be addressed before we find ourselves living and working in the metaverse.
Overcoming VR Sickness and Headset Issues
While there are various issues to overcome before VR headsets can replace monitors, solutions are on the horizon. VR sickness is something many developers and innovators are targeting on a broad scale. Additionally, government organizations are beginning to propose guidelines for mitigating the side effects and issues of VR.
For now, the research suggests VR headsets won’t replace monitors and traditional devices soon. However, the situation may change if companies can continue to innovate in the virtual world. We may quickly find that many of us can spend more time in virtual reality than ever.
In the meantime, business leaders investing in VR headsets will need to be cautious about how much they force their teams to rely on these devices. VR will likely remain a complementary part of the workplace tech stack rather than replacing monitors entirely.