Developer blames VR for severe eyesight damage

mongeese

Posts: 413   +63
Staff member

Danny Bittman is a twenty-five-year-old Creative Director and Artist who works almost exclusively in VR, and he recently took to Twitter to evaluate his eyesight problems.

Since childhood, Bittman’s had a previously-undiagnosed condition called exophoria, a type of heterophoria. It causes his eyes to unfocus and drift apart, making it somewhat difficult (in Bittman’s case) to read or focus on visual stimuli without getting sore eyes or headaches. The condition is normally static at Bittman’s age, however, he says the severity “has multiplied by 10 since 2016.” His optometrist, a VR user, believes this was caused by VR overuse.

He writes, “it's almost like my brain has gotten so used to translating a 2D image in VR into a 3D image, that when I see a flat pattern outside of a headset, my eyes work really hard to perceive it as 3D.”

Bittman’s second condition is a vergence-accommodation conflict. Eyes ‘converge’ together when they rotate to point at what you’re looking at, so if you’re looking at something directly ahead then your right eye tilts left and your left eye right. But then they need to individually ‘accommodate’ by bringing the object into focus. Because these two processes are defined by the distances between you and the object, the brain associates them together.

Via Hoffman et al. Journal of Vision 2008

However, in VR these two processes aren’t related. The user’s eyes converge to virtual distances (possible because the two screens in a headset show slightly different images) which is fine. But the focus distance stays constant because it’s a physical attribute of the lenses used within the headset. The brain stops trying to re-focus when a user looks at new objects because it doesn’t need to. However, when the headset is removed, the brain isn’t sure where to focus anymore.

For casual users, this means a few seconds of disorientation, but it can become a permanent condition. Vergence-accommodation conflicts aren’t limited to VR users of course, and special glasses help mitigate the issues, but there’s still inconveniences.

Bittman adds that he believes that the low framerates he deals with as a developer further contribute to the problem. “If you’re working in a VR scene and the FPS gets jumpy, don’t try to ‘suffer through it.’ Save your work and take the headset off,” he recommends. He’s tweeted a comprehensive guide to eye care for VR professionals.

“I may be wrong about which aspects of VR caused this. But there is without a doubt direct correlation to my VR usage and what I’m experiencing.”

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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 3,501   +3,338
When I played on PS: VR or Vive, I get headaches which has made me extremely adverse to VR, even when it's probably the most immersive way to play DCS.
 
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Vulcanproject

Posts: 1,238   +2,050
I can understand the point that the brain does not refocus the eyes however I don't buy that the vergence accommodation conflict is 'permanent' from VR usage. There isn't long term studies or data that can prove or disprove that yet.

I can see how for children there is a potential for it to be damaging during their development but for adults it seems unlikely to be something your brain can't just 'relearn' after several decades of mastering it anyway.
 

psycros

Posts: 3,201   +3,398
I can understand the point that the brain does not refocus the eyes however I don't buy that the vergence accommodation conflict is 'permanent' from VR usage. There isn't long term studies or data that can prove or disprove that yet.

I can see how for children there is a potential for it to be damaging during their development but for adults it seems unlikely to be something your brain can't just 'relearn' after several decades of mastering it anyway.
There is ample data that proves conclusively that having your eyes too near a screen accelerates natural degradation of vision. Young kids and older adults are especially vulnerable. If you're either very young or on the high side of middle age you need to be very careful about monitor time, or you may be wearing glasses a lot sooner than you otherwise would have. Same goes for reading a lot of small text from too far away.
 

QuantumPhysics

Posts: 3,501   +3,338
I can understand the point that the brain does not refocus the eyes however I don't buy that the vergence accommodation conflict is 'permanent' from VR usage. There isn't long term studies or data that can prove or disprove that yet.

I can see how for children there is a potential for it to be damaging during their development but for adults it seems unlikely to be something your brain can't just 'relearn' after several decades of mastering it anyway.


PAIN, nausea and dizziness are pretty reliable measures of an underlying problem.

Maybe our parents were right about sitting too close to a Television?

Well: mounting it to our heads...


this is ultimately the reason I never expected VR headsets with current technology to succeed. So much easier to buy big monitors and big TV.
 
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Vulcanproject

Posts: 1,238   +2,050
There is ample data that proves conclusively that having your eyes too near a screen accelerates natural degradation of vision. Young kids and older adults are especially vulnerable. If you're either very young or on the high side of middle age you need to be very careful about monitor time, or you may be wearing glasses a lot sooner than you otherwise would have. Same goes for reading a lot of small text from too far away.
I was only commenting on the specific condition know as vergence accommodation conflict which was claimed to become permanent as per the article. There is little data to support this.

Otherwise yes, other types of visual degradation are known to exist and have scientific studies backing them.
 
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Uncle Al

Posts: 7,484   +5,990
When we used night vision goggles in the military I used to get a number of complaints from my soldiers, especially those that used them regularly. While this is different than the current VR the issue of having that little screen so close to the eye for long periods of time caused the same issues. Thinking back I remember there was an amount of discomfort too ..... just another good reason to avoid VR .... I don't think this is something that can be fixed through the hardware ......
 
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Evernessince

Posts: 5,416   +6,001
There is ample data that proves conclusively that having your eyes too near a screen accelerates natural degradation of vision. Young kids and older adults are especially vulnerable. If you're either very young or on the high side of middle age you need to be very careful about monitor time, or you may be wearing glasses a lot sooner than you otherwise would have. Same goes for reading a lot of small text from too far away.
Wrong. Looking at a screen for prolonged periods of time has been linked to eye strain or fatigue. Only in fringe cases, where the user either has a rare condition or extreme usage patterns has it been shown to have any permanent effect. I asked my eye doctor, they told me the same thing this online video from VSP (the largest eyecare provider in the US) will tell you:


In short, so long as you take periodic breaks, you should not develop any issues.

When we used night vision goggles in the military I used to get a number of complaints from my soldiers, especially those that used them regularly. While this is different than the current VR the issue of having that little screen so close to the eye for long periods of time caused the same issues. Thinking back I remember there was an amount of discomfort too ..... just another good reason to avoid VR .... I don't think this is something that can be fixed through the hardware ......
You have the potential to develop issues from looking at your monitor. This isn't a good reason to avoid VR, it's just an rare one off example.
 

Damocles

Posts: 39   +32
That's probably why I experienced nausea almost within seconds of trying out a 3D TV. I guessed that it was something to do with the eyes' focus point causing confusion in my poor befuddled brain! The REAL focus is the fixed screen but the illusion of the fake 3D focus is presumably what gives problems with the information not tallying. Our eyes and brain were never "designed" to be fooled in that way. No wonder 3D on a TV didn't catch on.
 

p51d007

Posts: 2,518   +1,804
Gee, staring at something at a FIXED focus point for hours on end, can cause problems with your eyes? Thanks Captain Obvious! ;)
Also, once you reach the age of 40ish, your eyesight will typically start to wane.
 
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Puiu

Posts: 4,070   +2,619
That's probably why I experienced nausea almost within seconds of trying out a 3D TV. I guessed that it was something to do with the eyes' focus point causing confusion in my poor befuddled brain! The REAL focus is the fixed screen but the illusion of the fake 3D focus is presumably what gives problems with the information not tallying. Our eyes and brain were never "designed" to be fooled in that way. No wonder 3D on a TV didn't catch on.
3D TV failed not because it was making people sick, but because it was just bad :D
 

toooooot

Posts: 1,308   +614
I can understand the point that the brain does not refocus the eyes however I don't buy that the vergence accommodation conflict is 'permanent' from VR usage. There isn't long term studies or data that can prove or disprove that yet.

I can see how for children there is a potential for it to be damaging during their development but for adults it seems unlikely to be something your brain can't just 'relearn' after several decades of mastering it anyway.
For all we can say now, VRs dont cause massive problems. In fact, this is the only one I heard that caused long term issues. Oh and not forget, he spends in VR more than 99% of all the people increasing his chances of problem so high that we shouldnt even be surprised.
 
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Evernessince

Posts: 5,416   +6,001
That's probably why I experienced nausea almost within seconds of trying out a 3D TV. I guessed that it was something to do with the eyes' focus point causing confusion in my poor befuddled brain! The REAL focus is the fixed screen but the illusion of the fake 3D focus is presumably what gives problems with the information not tallying. Our eyes and brain were never "designed" to be fooled in that way. No wonder 3D on a TV didn't catch on.
While both 3D and VR are similar in that you are getting a slightly different image in each eye, 3D is fundamentally different because it doesn't simulate depth (VR does) and it's method of creating the illusion of 3D is just worse. The vergence-accommodation conflict, which is the issue described in the article, is not present in 3D as that technology does not simulate depth.
 
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psycros

Posts: 3,201   +3,398
Wrong. Looking at a screen for prolonged periods of time has been linked to eye strain or fatigue. Only in fringe cases, where the user either has a rare condition or extreme usage patterns has it been shown to have any permanent effect. I asked my eye doctor, they told me the same thing this online video from VSP (the largest eyecare provider in the US) will tell you:


In short, so long as you take periodic breaks, you should not develop any issues.

You have the potential to develop issues from looking at your monitor. This isn't a good reason to avoid VR, it's just an rare one off example.
Eye strain is what accelerates the natural degredation, as you'd know if you spent even ten mintes actually researching the subject. My neighbor the optomologist just laughed at your post and said, "Everyone is an expert on the Internet." He's seeing a huge surge of people in their late 20's to early 30's developing what should be middle aged eye conditions. Its measurable and there are articles about it in medical journals. And yes, the only common element so far seems to be excessive screen time, particularly with phones and laptops.
 
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Evernessince

Posts: 5,416   +6,001
Eye strain is what accelerates the natural degredation, as you'd know if you spent even ten mintes actually researching the subject. My neighbor the optomologist just laughed at your post and said, "Everyone is an expert on the Internet." He's seeing a huge surge of people in their late 20's to early 30's developing what should be middle aged eye conditions. Its measurable and there are articles about it in medical journals. And yes, the only common element so far seems to be excessive screen time, particularly with phones and laptops.
So let's get this straight: You just so happened to have a neighbor who is an ophthalmologist and just so happened to be at your house watching you post internet comments?

I'd be willing to say he's completely imaginary as the writing style of the supposed statement of his shares in the same level of schadenfreude as you do earlier in your comment (and in many of your comments on techspot in general).

You interject that information is a plenty on the subject but provide nothing to backup such a claim. On the otherhand I have and will again:



" According to experts, staring at the computer, tablet, and smartphone screens will not permanently damage your eyesight "

Instead of levying imaginary friends, how about you provide something of substance behind your comment?
 
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MaxSmarties

Posts: 393   +211
I’m not a medic, but I’m definitely scared by VR, even if it is a fascinating world.
To keep a display so close to my eyes for hours is not something I’m planning to do in the near future.
 

Hardware Geek

Posts: 264   +250
I have been waiting for VR tech to advance with higher resolution and frame rates, because the ones I have tried make me nauseous. Now I'm thinking it's probably wise to wait for more information on the potential damage to people's vision and whether that only happens in a subset of the population with specific vision issues, or if it is unsafe in general. I really don't want to deal with glasses again unless I have no option. I finally had my vision fixed a few years ago and don't want to go back to glasses if I somehow manage to beat the odds and live long enough for my vision to get bad again because I wasn't careful enough with a new toy.
 
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trgz

Posts: 323   +100
So let's get this straight: You just so happened to have a neighbor who is an ophthalmologist and just so happened to be at your house watching watching you post internet comments?

I'd be willing to say he's completely imaginary as the writing style of the supposed statement of his shares in the same level of schadenfreude as you do earlier in your comment (and in many of your comments on techspot in general).

You interject that information is a plenty on the subject but provide nothing to backup such a claim. On the otherhand I have and will again:



" According to experts, staring at the computer, tablet, and smartphone screens will not permanently damage your eyesight "

Instead of levying imaginary friends, how about you provide something of substance behind your comment?
The neighbor, an ophthalmologist with binoculars perhaps, wasn't watching the posting of internet comments...
 

Rayneofpayne

Posts: 233   +225
There is ample data that proves conclusively that having your eyes too near a screen accelerates natural degradation of vision. Young kids and older adults are especially vulnerable. If you're either very young or on the high side of middle age you need to be very careful about monitor time, or you may be wearing glasses a lot sooner than you otherwise would have. Same goes for reading a lot of small text from too far away.
This is actually a wive's tale, bs
This started with old school tube TV's, and in reality the problems were mitigated almost immediately with the very next gen of tube TV's that were released, to understand this it was radiation damage, but the public translated it to every tv on the market can do this which isn't true especially this day and age..
 
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Rayneofpayne

Posts: 233   +225
I have been waiting for VR tech to advance with higher resolution and frame rates, because the ones I have tried make me nauseous. Now I'm thinking it's probably wise to wait for more information on the potential damage to people's vision and whether that only happens in a subset of the population with specific vision issues, or if it is unsafe in general. I really don't want to deal with glasses again unless I have no option. I finally had my vision fixed a few years ago and don't want to go back to glasses if I somehow manage to beat the odds and live long enough for my vision to get bad again because I wasn't careful enough with a new toy.
This is incredibly something that is an extreme.
You have to understand the amount of hours per day and his ignorance that caused this.
 

Rayneofpayne

Posts: 233   +225
For all we can say now, VRs dont cause massive problems. In fact, this is the only one I heard that caused long term issues. Oh and not forget, he spends in VR more than 99% of all the people increasing his chances of problem so high that we shouldnt even be surprised.
He also had underlying conditions medically that could relapse. Which could have been avoided if he followed the proper instructions in the manual.
 
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