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Virtual Gaming…Real Injuries?

An unprecedented event in the world of electronic entertainment is slated to occur this month: a major player in the field of virtual reality is set to release a groundbreaking virtual reality headset. The headset is named “Oculus Rift” and it is one of many virtual reality devices set to take the entertainment world by storm this year. The headset encapsulates the user’s vision and hearing into whatever virtual realm they wish to traverse. With the headset on, virtual reality adventurers will effectively be unable to stay in touch with what objects, people, or hazards are present in their physical environment.

Known Virtual Reality Risks

Although the Oculus Rift is somewhat of a flagship device for virtual reality, there are currently other devices that are on the market. One device which is already available is the Samsung Gear VR headset. This is a somewhat less sophisticated virtual reality device that relies on the use of a smartphone instead of a high-powered computer and does not share the same capabilities as the more advanced virtual reality devices arriving this year.

The Gear VR headset is the first in a new wave of VR headsets hitting stores this year. While these devices seek to revolutionize the way consumers receive entertainment, they are not without risk. Samsung has issued a lengthy set of consumer warnings related to the device. Some risks include:

  • Motion Sickness: Virtual reality relies on deceiving one’s eyes through the use of a headset. However, your body will remain firmly planted in the chair you sit in, or position you were standing in before you put on the headset. The game or movie you are viewing may move but you will stay still. This sort of dissonance can result in extreme bouts of nausea, headaches, and other forms of motion sickness.
  • Lack of Spatial Awareness: When you place the headset on and “enter” the virtual reality state, you remove your sensory awareness of the room and objects around you. For this reason, the Gear VR headset’s warning explicitly warns users against playing near stairs or balconies.
  • Accidental Injury to Another Person: The Gear VR warnings also explicitly caution users against handling sharp or dangerous objects while using the device. Doing so would result in the risk of injury to another person in the immediate vicinity.

What To Anticipate

While we cannot be totally sure of what to expect with the upcoming virtual reality tech craze, one thing is for certain, these devices can potentially hold some degree of danger to their users. How will users with peripheral senses engaged by the device know what is going on around them? What sort of effects can this have on the user and others in their vicinity? Or, more importantly, how can these events be prevented? Only time will tell, and we will see exactly what virtual reality is about when the devices hit the market later this year.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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