Health, Safety & Maintenance
Health & Safety Concerns
Many new technologies raise concerns about our well-being. Virtual reality is no exception, and it may actually involve some legitimate health and safety worries. You don’t often find yourself so isolated from the real world, but with VR, that's kind of the point.
A convincing virtual reality experience can be dangerous because you lose track of physical obstacles around you as you're drawn into this other world. We've heard stories of folks falling over after leaning on a virtual table that obviously wasn't able to support their real weight. One of our reviewers even hit his head on a table leaning forward to look down in a virtual environment.
Oculus tries to prevent this by encouraging developers to target seated and standing experiences. The Rift, at least until its Touch controllers arrive, mostly presents environments that don't leave you vulnerable. It should be fairly easy to avoid physical harm while using the Rift in its current form, especially if you do your part to clear away obstacles before sliding the HMD over your eyes.
There are other concerns to think about, though. For years we’ve been told that sitting too close to a monitor can damage your vision over time. Now we're strapping two displays right onto our faces. It’s hard to predict the long-term effects of habitual VR use, so many enthusiasts will try to use the Rift in moderation for now.
Not For Young Children
Oculus doesn't recommend the Rift for anyone younger than 13 because its headset is not designed to accommodate a child's IPD. The Rift can only adjust down to a measurement of 58mm, which even exceeds the IPD of some adults (as low as 55mm.) Children can have IPDs more than 10mm narrower than that. Using a headset configured to an unoptimized IPD can cause eye strain and, eventually, motion sickness. Oculus goes so far as to say that the eye strain from an incorrect IPD setting can have lasting effects on kids. It even cautions parents to monitor children 13 and up after they use Rift, and to limit play time. Prolonged use of VR when your body is still developing may adversely affect balance, hand-eye coordination and even the ability to multitask.
Children aren't the only ones who need to be careful. Oculus warns us all of repetitive stress injuries, potential skin reactions caused by the foam gasket and motion sickness you might experience for any number of reasons. It says you should immediately quit using the Rift and consult a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms (if this sounds a bit like a Fraxiga commercial, we agree...but, you know, enjoy that Rift):
Seizures; loss of awareness; eye strain; eye or muscle twitching; involuntary movements; altered, blurred, or double vision or other 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; or fatigue.
In some ways, the Rift is similar to a hat, not just another gaming peripheral. The hardware is designed to rest on your face, sometimes for long periods of time. Those sessions may involve intense games that get your heart pumping and adrenaline flowing. Frightening and exciting experiences leave many people perspiring. You can imagine what the foam face gasket is going to be subjected to after months of epic space battles in EVE: Valkyrie.
Oculus approached the Rift's materials as if the HMD was an article of clothing. The company went with a fabric lining specifically designed to be breathable, which, again, means it's able to pass moisture vapor through. That's going to keep the lenses from fogging up and the rest of the headset from developing sweat condensation. In the event that it does wear out, the face plate is replaceable. And the foam gasket is attached to the face plate, so you don't have to worry if it starts to break down over time.
Oculus provides a few instructions for maintaining the Rift. To start, never clean the lenses and sensor with anything but a dry microfiber towel. Scratching the lens surface will affect its clarity, and damaging the sensor could impact tracking precision. You should also avoid cleaning those components with any liquid, including water, as it could damage the delicate surfaces.
To keep the foam face gasket as fresh as possible, Oculus recommends wiping it down with non-abrasive anti-bacterial wipes. Alcohol-based cleaning products could damage the foam. If you plan to share your Rift, consider investing in a third-party gasket cover that can be easily washed. Putting on a Rift with a gasket damp from someone else’s sweaty face is just gross.
Find a dark place to store your Rift, too. Oculus says you should avoid leaving the headset, sensor or remote in direct sunlight, which can affect tracking performance and cause premature wear.
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