VR (virtual reality) headsets are sure to top many a letter to Santa this year. And why wouldn’t they? The ability to navigate a jungle, shop at a mega mall, or journey to outer space without moving from your couch promises an unequaled experience for users both young and old. But along with the amazing potential comes a very real concern from placing a smartphone two inches away from your eyes.
Blue light, that high-energy light coming from your smartphone, has been clinically proven to contribute to eye strain and fatigue*, as well as sleep disruption.** And the closer it is to your eyes, the more intense it becomes.
It comes down to something called the Inverse Square Law, which states that the intensity of light increases exponentially the closer you are to the source (Intensity = 1/(distance). Watch the video below for a detailed explanation.
So when comparing an adult with a 16-inch reach versus a child with an eight-inch reach, you might logically think that the intensity of light would double for the child (8” vs 16”). However, as the video demonstrates, when applying the Inverse Square Law, it turns out that the intensity is actually 4x greater for the child at eight inches. Now take that device, strap it to a virtual reality headset, and put it two inches away from the eyes. At that distance, the light is a frightening 64x more intense.
In fact, at two inches away, the intensity of blue light from a phone or tablet is 90% as intense as sunlight.***
Ok, the light's more intense. So what?
In its 2016 Digital Eye Strain Report, the Vision Council states that blue light can contribute to digital eye strain in as little as two hours of exposure. However, the report discusses exposure in terms of viewing a digital screen from a more typical 8-12” distance. What’s not discussed, and is likely to be the focus of a ton of research, are the impacts (long and short-term) of placing the same device a couple inches away from your eyes and staring at it for an extended period.
Can you reduce blue light exposure from VR headsets?
VR manufacturers will likely look to address the blue light issue, similar to Apple® (Night Shift®) and Amazon® (Blue Shade™) introducing blue-light-reducing functionality for their smart devices. In the meantime, if you’re still adamant about getting your son, daughter, mom, dad, or hip grandparent this year’s hot tech gift, there are a couple things you can do to help combat the impact of blue light exposure.
Do you use a VR headset? If so, do you take any steps to reduce blue light or alleviate eye strain? Share them with us in the comments below.
2. The Vision Council, “The Digital Device Dilemma 2016 Digital Eye Strain Report.”
3. Harvard Health Letter. “Blue Light Has a Dark Side.” May 2012. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/harvard_health_letter/2012/may/blue-light-has-a-dark-side/
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