Organizations across all industries are adopting VR technology in one way or another for business. Also, more individuals are using VR for entertainment. According to the marketing intelligence firm Mordor Intelligence, the VR market value is expected to reach USD$87.97 billion by 2025.
The majority of VR developers have been solving problems related to creating comfort, portability, and lowering production costs. Prices are dropping; this means an increased adoption of VR technologies. While adoption is growing, practical and ethical problems still need solving. This article will discuss about the practical and ethical issues VR still needs to fix.
Protecting the User
A lack of physical protection is a problem VR still needs to solve. Virtual Reality eliminates feedback from real-world sensations. Therefore, people are in danger of walking into walls. Also, Tech Times reported that a 44-year-old Russian man bled to death while wearing VR goggles. The man slipped, fell on a glass table, and bled to death. Researchers are working with “redirected walking” to solve this problem.
This innovation tells the user’s brain that they are walking a straight plane but is walking along a slight bend. The slight bend turns into a circle and produces a boundless space where the user walks in circles, and not into walls.
VR Perception of Touch
Another reason VR Users easily walk into walls and crash into objects is that VR lacks the perception of touch. When wearing headsets or goggles, users lose their focal understanding of touch, and they lose any tactile sensation in the real-world. This problem happens because the controllers do not provide an authentic experience.
VR is working on trying to create habit-forming content. Frank Soqui, the GM of Intel’s VR and Gaming Group mentioned in an interview with Design News that the number one challenge is creating content that from the perspective of the consumer is habit-forming.
What happens if VR developers managed to create habit-forming content? What are the ethical problems that habit-forming content can create?
If users spend too much time in a virtual space, they might have trouble adjusting back to the real world. Could they become desensitized to particular violent acts or interactions? This inability to sympathize can harm their personal and social relationships.
Another aspect is that viewers may overrate their physical capabilities. in the virtual world, one can leap from onto a skyscraper and scale it, but what happens if that same person tries in the real life?
User Isolation and Social Effects
Another challenge for VR to solve is that content may cause a user to become isolated or cut-off from society. Though not common, some people who consume too much content from gaming become isolated from society at unhealthy levels. Psychologists researching the effects of excessive exposure to video games claimed that the time watching video games should be limited to a specific number of hours.
The debate is about the amount of time per week. Regardless of the discussion, this is a problem VR should address and fix during the development stage.
The journal Human Brain Mapping released a study showing how porn affects the brains of men. The study pointed out that when men view porn, watching it activates parts of their brain that trigger their primary drive for food, water, and sex in addition to motivation and hormone control. That means when men watch porn, they are watching it as a need for survival.
Another journal, NeuroImage, argued that men don’t merely watch porn, but they enter into it. Entering into an experience is the purpose of VR. What happens if a male viewer enters into pornographic content in a virtual, but realistic space that has a first-person point of view interaction? To complicate things, what will happen if a male viewer has a replicate interaction with real-world people, or performs a virtual sex act that is illegal in real life?
What would the effect of men entering pornographic content be on violent crime? In a general sense, how will laws be handled in a virtual world? VR has a lot of potential for good, but it also has a dark side. Currently, video games like Grand Theft Auto (GTA) permits a user’s avatar to murder and rob. That’s a video game; however, what will happen when people start pulling triggers of guns and stabbing people in a hyper-real virtual world?
Experiencing in a virtual space can cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). VR experiences that replicate torturous events, or force viewers to make hard moral choices, may leave lasting psychological scars on the viewer. How will VR developers handle these problems?
When military personnel use VR as a form of torture training technique, do they think it is an ethical alternative to physically harming a captive? The prisoner may still experience a terrifying experience except without physical harm. Who is responsible for managing or preventing this technique?
Data and Privacy
Virtual tours are great for realtors, hotels, and travel destinations. However, what about places that do not permit any visitor of any kind? Plus, what about the possibility of peeking into the home of our friends? Also, with VR, people will engage and interact with increased amounts of content. Who will have control over the data collected through interacting with this content? How will VR solve these data and privacy issues?
Cyberattacks have not hit VR platforms. However, cybersecurity is a challenge for VR. Few people are paying attention to the relationship between VR and cybersecurity. In his interview with Design News, Frank Soqui posed a hypothetical situation. What if an employee stole a headset containing proprietary data on it; a project on which your company is working?
At this point, no one is for sure about the effects of VR on our psyche. However, as mass adoption approaches, virtual reality developers will need to start thinking and working on solving these problems.