A couple of brave VR enthusiasts ignore warnings and spend nearly two days fully immersed.
No matter which virtual reality headset you choose, every manufacturer will include the same universal warning for any user: Do not wear your headset for an extended period of time.
It makes total sense after all. The weight the headsets place on your face combined with a tiny screen strapped just inches from your eyes results in an experience that could be less than comfortable after prolonged use. Valve recommends regular breaks when using the HTC Vive with Oculus goes as far to suggest “at least a 10 to 15 minute break” for every half hour spent inside the Rift.
Naturally all these warnings and rules have tempted bold VR enthusiasts to defy instructions and spend a highly-unrecommended amount of time in virtual reality. However, two individuals in particular threw all caution to the wind to spend an absolutely ridiculous 48 hours fully immersed in the virtual world.
In an attempt to test the arbitrary limits of the technology, as well as flip a giant middle finger to health and safety guidelines, Dean Johnson, head of innovation for Brandwidth, teamed up with friend Sarah Jones of Coventry University to test and record the effects extended virtual reality use can have on the human mind/body. In an interview with Engadget, Johnson explains how the project isn’t meant to serve as a PR stunt for any particular headset, primarily because every manufacturer they brought it to refused to participate “mostly because they thought we’d die.”
Nearly every moment of the two days was spent inside VR with only five-minute breaks every hour to record vlogs and use the restroom. To further test the effects of the technology, the duo spent their time participating in several real-world activities while immersed as opposed to simply viewing 360 videos or playing games. This includes everything from riding on the wing of an airplane to driving go-karts.
“We wanted it to be as physical as possible,” Johnson explained. “How extreme do you need to get with the physical additions to VR to make it feel real?”
Of course this wasn’t nearly good enough for Johnson, who then proceeded to test the effects of VR while getting “tatted up.”
“I began the process with my headset up, allowing me an unimpeded view of my arm as the needle struck home—my baseline pain levels were set,” Johnson explained. “If I were to describe this raw tattooing pain as a sustained maximum of 10, I felt the VR content and the subsequent cocktail of endorphins and adrenaline genuinely dropped the irritation to a 6 or 7.”
Oddly enough their experience using a Gear VR while strapped to the wing of an airplane proved to be less than thrilling. Johnson claimed the experience “didn’t feel real to us with what we were seeing,” do in large part to the small FOV when viewing the real world through the Gear VR’s pass-through camera. “But the movement — the buffeting and forcing yourself against the wind, they were the things that physically added the extra dimension.”
Along with these interesting experiences, the team also dealt with the reality of communication while immersed. Having a face-to-face talk with another person means accessing VR-compatible social apps such as Facebook Spaces. Sleeping and waking up in the virtual world also provided its own difficulties:
“When you wake up in VR, you just believe everything,” Johnson exclaimed. “It’s kind of like waking up in an unfamiliar hotel room. You may not know where you are or what the timezone is, but you just believe you’re in a hotel room. Why would you not?”
So what’s the final verdict on spending a full two days immersed in virtual reality? Well according to Johnson & Jones, the adventure might not kill you, but there are definitely some noticeable side effects. Johnson reported several small instances of blurry vision without his glasses for a few of the following days as well as pain resulting from the weight of the headset resting on the bridge of his nose for such as long time. Jones also admitted to physical discomfort in her cheeks with a “kind of permanent red marks on them.”
It’ll be fascinating to see what crazy virtual reality experiments Johnson and company will attempt next. Last year Johnson spent 24 hours in a variety of Rift, Vive and Gear experiences setting an unofficial world record for longest time spent in VR. Only a year later and he’s doubled his time immersed, as well as added the exciting new element of real-world activities. At this rate I can only expect we’ll see a project even more ridiculously amazing in 2018.