Virtual Reality Health & Safety Usage Guide

Virtual Reality Health & Safety Usage Guide

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are gaining momentum as promising new technologies. They can potentially expand the field of human knowledge by changing how people learn, work, play, and entertain themselves.

High-tech VR and AR headsets are popping up everywhere – from the expensive ones from Samsung, Google, and Facebook, to the generic cardboard headsets for the lower market.

Surprisingly, there has been almost no discussion on the health and safety risks associated with strapping a VR headset over your eyes. There could be health risks when people are immersed in a fully imagined environment, possibly affecting their physical and emotional well-being. Here are some of them:

Health Risks From Using Virtual Reality Headsets

1. Anxiety

The immersive nature of virtual and augmented reality can induce stress or anxiety after wearing a full occlusion headset for more than a few minutes.

Depending on what images they are seeing, virtual reality can bring in waves of emotions more than just looking at photos or watching videos. For example, virtual reality footage of the war in Syria can cause the viewer to feel fearful, stressed, and shocked.

It can take a while to get over this anxiety because the viewers experience everything as if they were there in the scene.

2. Nausea

Some people who use VR headsets complain of dizziness and nausea. Its realistic simulated motions can affect a person’s perception of time and space and can induce fatigue, nausea or wooziness.

In fact, a UCLA Keck Center for Neurophysics study showed negative side effects of VR among lab rats, including “cybersickness” and abnormal patterns of activity in rat brains. Scientists also noted that 60 percent of the rats’ neurons simply shut down in virtual reality environments.

It is recommended that users take frequent breaks from virtual reality to avoid nausea. They can adjust the fit of the headset, tighten or loosen straps, as well as fixing the focal distance or eye distance.

3. Eyestrain

VR headsets can cause severe eye strain among users. They strain their eyes in order to focus on a pixelated screen that uses a single refractive optic element. Headsets do not usually addresses the optic issues with near-to-eye devices, and they quickly become uncomfortable after a few minutes.

Headset designers must find a way to maintain a large field of view (FoV) for the users. Humans typically have a field of view of 200 degrees, involving 140 degrees of binocular vision for depth perception, and 60 degrees for peripheral vision. Headsets today are at 35 degrees FoV, giving the user the experience of merely “watching” the content. Increasing it to 60 degrees FoV or more can make users feel completely immersed in the displayed content and it becomes experiential.

Headsets should also mimic how human vision really works, to provide the most comfortable viewing experience for both 2D and 3D content. In physiological terms, headset makers need to solve this tension known as the “accommodation/convergence conflict,” and eliminate eye strain.

4. Radiation exposure

Wearable technology like VR headsets potentially exposes the user to harmful electromagnetic frequency radiation. These devices make use of wireless connections like Bluetooth or WiFi to connect with your smartphone or computer; and are equipped with smart sensors that allow you to be immersed in the VR experience.

Some virtual reality headsets use smartphones, which emit radiation. Numerous studies have already pointed out how cell phone radiation can affect the human reproductive system, disrupt sleep, or cause mood swings. Now, VR headsets work together with cellphones and can wirelessly connect to WiFi–this means that they too emit radiation, and could, in fact, pose long-term health risks.

EMFs have been cited as a form of carcinogen—a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue–in previous studies. This essentially puts it at par with more commonly known sources of carcinogens, such as cigarettes.

Researchers from the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a federal inter-agency group under the National Institutes of Health, conducted experiments on mice that showed how subjects exposed to electromagnetic radiation could be more susceptible to cancer.

In another study, the World Health Organization (WHO) mentions cell phones as “possibly carcinogenic.” The study also implies that increased proximity to the devices increases the level of radiation exposure. This particular finding makes wearable even more worrying, given that they are specifically designed to be worn constantly near the body.

Virtual Reality Health & Safety Usage Guide



These health & safety warnings are periodically updated for accuracy and completeness.

Before Using the Headset:

  • Read and follow all setup and operating instructions provided with the headset.
  • Review the hardware and software recommendations for use of the headset. Risk of discomfort may increase if recommended hardware and software are not used.
  • Your headset and software are not designed for use with any unauthorised device, accessory and/or software. Use of an unauthorised device, accessory and/or software may result in injury to you or others, may cause performance issues or damage to your system and related services.
  • To reduce the risk of discomfort, adjust the viewing focus for each user before use of the headset.
  • A comfortable virtual reality experience requires an unimpaired sense of motion and balance. Do not use the headset when you are: Tired; need sleep; under emotional stress or anxiety; or when suffering from cold, flu, headaches, migraines, or earaches, as this can increase your susceptibility to adverse symptoms.
  • We recommend seeing a doctor before using the headset if you are pregnant, elderly, have pre-existing binocular vision abnormalities or other serious medical conditions.
  • To charge the headsets, carefully ensure they are placed within their supplied case, with the USB cable connected to each headset. When the case is connected to the mains using the supplied power cable, the light on each headset should illuminate to show that it is charging. When the headsets are fully charged, we recommend switching the power supply off at the mains.


Adults should make sure children use the headset in accordance with these health and safety warnings including making sure the headset is used as described in the Before Using the Headset section and the Safe Environment section.

Adults should monitor children who are using or have used the headset for any of the symptoms described in these health and safety warnings (including those described under the Discomfort and Repetitive Stress Injury sections), and should limit the time children spend using the headset and ensure they take breaks during use.

Prolonged use should be avoided, as this could negatively impact hand-eye coordination, balance, and multi-tasking ability. Adults should monitor children closely during and after use of the headset for any decrease in these abilities. We recommend that ClassVR is used for no more than 15 minutes in any one lesson. Short VR sessions are very engaging and are the perfect way to open a topic or reinforce a key point. The ClassVR player includes a notification to the teacher when any student has been in VR for longer than this recommended time, which is also the limit recommended for children by optometrists.


Some people (about 1 in 4000) may have severe dizziness, seizures, eye or muscle twitching or blackouts triggered by light flashes or patterns, and this may occur while they are watching TV, playing video games or experiencing virtual reality, even if they have never had a seizure or blackout before or have no history of seizures or epilepsy. Such seizures are more common in children and young people under the age of 20. Anyone who experiences any of these symptoms should discontinue use of the headset and see a doctor. Anyone who previously has had a seizure, loss of awareness, or other symptom linked to an epileptic condition should see a doctor before using the headset.

General Precautions:

To reduce the risk of injury or discomfort you should always follow these instructions and observe these precautions while using the headset:

Use Only In A Safe Environment: The headset produces an immersive virtual reality experience that distracts you from and completely blocks your view of your actual surroundings.

Always be aware of your surroundings before beginning use and while using the headset. Use caution to avoid injury and remain seated unless your content experience requires standing.

  • Use of the headset may cause loss of balance.
  • Remember that the objects you see in the virtual environment do not exist in the real environment, so don’t sit or stand on them or use them for support.
  • Serious injuries can occur from tripping, running into or striking walls, furniture or other objects, so clear an area for safe use before using the headset.
  • Take special care to ensure that you are not near other people, objects, stairs, balconies, open doorways, windows, furniture, open flames, ceiling fans or light fixtures or other items that you can bump into or knock down when using—or immediately after using—the headset.
  • Remove any tripping hazards from the area before using the headset.
  • Remember that while using the headset you may be unaware that people may enter your immediate area.
  • Do not handle sharp or otherwise dangerous objects while using the headset.
  • Never wear the headset in situations that require attention, such as walking, bicycling, or driving.
  • Make sure the headset is level and secured comfortably on your head, and that you see a single, clear image.
  • Make sure any headphone cables if used are not tripping hazards.
  • Ease into the use of the headset to allow your body to adjust; use for only a few minutes at a time at first, and only increase the amount of time using the headset gradually as you grow accustomed to virtual reality. Looking around when first entering virtual reality can help you adjust to any small differences between your real-world movements and the resulting virtual reality experience.
  • Do not use the headset while in a moving vehicle such as a car, bus, or train, as this can increase your susceptibility to adverse symptoms.
  • Take at least a 10 to 15 minute break every 30 minutes, even if you don’t think you need it. Each person is different, so take more frequent and longer breaks if you feel discomfort. You should decide what works best for you.
  • If using headphones, listening to sound at high volumes can cause irreparable damage to your hearing. Background noise, as well as continued exposure to high volume levels, can make sounds seem quieter than they actually are. Due to the immersive nature of the virtual reality experience, do not use the headset with the sound at a high volume so that you can maintain awareness of your surroundings and reduce the risk of hearing damage.


Immediately discontinue using the headset if any of the following symptoms are experienced: seizures; loss of awareness; eye strain; eye or muscle twitching; involuntary movements; altered, blurred, or double vision or othe visual abnormalities; dizziness; disorientation; impaired balance; impaired hand-eye coordination; excessive sweating; increased salivation; nausea; lightheadedness; discomfort or pain in the head or eyes; drowsiness; fatigue; or any symptoms similar to motion sickness.

Just as with the symptoms people can experience after they disembark a cruise ship, symptoms of virtual reality exposure can persist and become more apparent hours after use. These post-use symptoms can include the symptoms above, as well as excessive drowsiness and decreased ability to multi-task. These symptoms may put you at an increased risk of injury when engaging in normal activities in the real world.

  • Do not drive, operate machinery, or engage in other visually or physically demanding activities that have potentially serious consequences (i.e., activities in which experiencing any symptoms could lead to death, personal injury, or damage to property), or other activities that require unimpaired balance and hand-eye coordination (such as playing sports or riding a bicycle, etc.) until you have fully recovered from any symptoms.
  • Do not use the headset until all symptoms have completely subsided for several hours. Make sure you have properly configured the headset before resuming use.
  • Be mindful of the type of content that you were using prior to the onset of any symptoms because you may be more prone to symptoms based upon the content being used.
  • See a doctor if you have serious and/or persistent symptoms.

Repetitive Stress Injury:

Using the device may make your muscles, joints, or skin hurt. If any part of your body becomes tired or sore while using the headset or its components, or if you feel symptoms such as tingling, numbness, burning, or stiffness, stop and rest for several hours before using it again. If you continue to have any of the above symptoms or other discomforts during or after use, stop use and see a doctor.

Electrical Shock:

To reduce risk of electric shock:

  • Do not modify or open any of the components provided.
  • Do not use the product if any cable is damaged or any wires are exposed.

Damaged or Broken Device

  • Do not use your device if any part is broken or damaged.
  • Do not attempt to repair any part of your device yourself. Repairs should only be made by Avantis Systems Ltd

Contagious Conditions

To avoid transferring contagious conditions like conjunctivitis (pink eye), do not share the headset with persons with contagious conditions, infections or diseases, particularly of the eyes, skin, or scalp. The headset should be cleaned between each use with skin-friendly non-alcoholic antibacterial wipes and with a dry microfiber cloth for the lenses.

Skin Irritation

The headset is worn next to your skin and scalp. Stop using the headset if you notice swelling, itchiness, skin irritation, or other skin reactions. If symptoms persist, contact a doctor.

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