Parents have often chiding their offspring for sitting too close to the TV, warning that doing so would ruin their eyesight. With the advent of virtual reality (VR) and head-mounted displays (HMDs) that put the screen right next to your eyeballs, some were concerned over the effect this could have upon children and their eyes. This worry appears to have been wide of the mark, however, since some research indicated that VR actually helps improve eyesight.
The Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Future Visual Entertainment has been working alongside several organisations, including the Beijing Insitute of Technology to study the impact of VR use on young people. Students ages between 9-12 were recruited for use in the testing, which was part of an on-campus VR experience.
The results were startling to many, showing that in certain cases, use of a HMD can actually have a positive impact on eyesight, especially when compared to an equivalent amount of time using a tablet or smartphone. The researchers were led to a conclusion that HMDs with a properly designed and calibrated vision system that used high-performance system to generate the virtual images, such as a HTC Vive may even be able to correct vision. Data collected by the researchers showed that the image distance during the experiment was 1.7 meters, which is up to 0.45 meters further away than the focal length used when using a tablet. The researches believe this focal distance may have a role in the improvement of eyesight in young people.
With VR moving steadily towards mainstream adoption, and VR technology moving rapidly, it would seem to be a positive step for the industry to be able to reassure parents that VR use will not negatively impact their children. A PDF of the Research Paper can be found here.
It remains to be seen if this research will be taken any further into the realms of therapeutic uses of VR technology for improving deteriorating eyesight. VRFocus will bring you the latest if and when it does.
Update: Edited to add a link to the PDF of the Research Paper.