Virtual reality side effects are unknown

Luis Almeida
Posted 9/27/17

We Americans often celebrate the many new advancements in modern technology.

Our society has grown used to seeing so many new technological artifacts introduced into the market that when we …

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Virtual reality side effects are unknown


We Americans often celebrate the many new advancements in modern technology.

Our society has grown used to seeing so many new technological artifacts introduced into the market that when we don’t see them introduced and advertised, we tend to question the validity of the media reporting.

In these past few years, people have celebrated the advent of 3D printing, self-driving cars, drones and virtual reality goggles with much enthusiasm and hope. I myself have purchased a number of these gadgets and have enjoyed using them sporadically, especially my VR goggles.

I have to say that riding a roller coaster in the comfort of your own home is both safe and fun. But here is the kicker, ladies and gents: These great new technologies likely will have long-term side effects that are yet unknown to us. Let’s take the example of VR goggles.

What happens to your brain when this new technology starts tricking your brain about heights?

Many researchers are claiming that VR technology is re-wiring our brains, affecting our eyesight, and negatively affecting our hippocampus functions. Researchers at UCLA have found that VR technology helped rats with being fully immersed in a virtual world. Repeated use of VR technology has demonstrated that this technology tends to shut down neurons and create “corrupted” maps in rats’ brains.

Well, these claims seem pretty disturbing to me, especially because being able to physically navigate in the world is what makes us productive members of society, to a large degree. Can you imagine working somewhere in Cleveland and not knowing how to get around town? I don’t want to lose my ability to self-navigate, do you?

By the way, how is that GPS technology treating you? Have you lost track of where things are in town because you are constantly using Google Maps? VR technology is reported to be having similar effects in that regard.

Let me say this. I don't want to grow old and start having schizophrenic attacks or develop Alzheimer’s disease because of technology. Do you? My brain is more important to me than any microchip! A severely stiff neck and eye strain are two conditions that I wouldn’t enjoy having at age 60. Reality is more important than virtual reality.

And that is not all. Vision researchers have claimed that nearsightedness can develop in subjects due to use of VR technologies, which eventually can result in people having a higher chance to develop retinal diseases. Holy cow! Give me a paper and pencil. I just want to live in an analog world and breathe calmly!

Alternately, some researchers in England claim VR technology has been shown to be a great tool to assist preteens with improving eyesight. I am skeptical about these VR benefits, I must add. Although playing a VR roller coaster video game is fun, I have to admit that I leave the game a bit disoriented. On a few occasions, I have experienced a headache and sensitivity to light.

What makes this whole discussion pretty disconcerting to me is the fact that we cannot claim with any degree of certainty yet that these tools are really causing any or all of these conditions.

Some of us teachers and scholars understand the impacts and limitations that an experiment can have on what we call “subjects.” I am concerned about these technologies, people.

Part of why I own some of these gadgets is to better understand their side effects and point them out to you so that you at least have an idea about what is it like to use these “beta” tools.

It is fun to ride a roller coaster vicariously, but at what cost? Let me disclose something to you! I don't use my VR goggles any more, because I got sick of developing headaches. I am not looking forward to potentially developing schizophrenia, either! I would rather live in reality than in virtual reality.

What is more fun to you?


(About the writer: Dr. Luis C. Almeida is an associate professor of communication at Lee University and TEDx speaker. He is the author of the book “Becoming a Brand: The Rise of Technomoderation,” and a devoted Christian. He can be reached via his website at


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