Ready for Virtual Reality to Join Your Family’s Reality?

My son has been begging for a virtual reality device for well over a year, and while we’re open to it, the cost it what is holding us back. We’re an iPhone family, and many of the less expensive VR options run on Android, so we’re out on those, plus we’re not ready to dive into an Oculus at this price point, but it’s getting closer.

In the meantime, VR devices are becoming part of the lives. Our family therapist has begun using them to help combat anxiety, and my kids closely follow how they are used by Stanford Athletics to help prepare athletes. It’s fascinating and definitely in our family’s future, just not as soon as my son would like.

Below is a guest post from Patricia Vance, president of the Entertainment Software Rating Board, featuring tips on handling these devices at home.

First, what is VR?

VR is an immersive interactive experience that uses a powerful PC, home console and/or smartphone to generate a simulated, three-dimensional environment that makes you feel like you are inside an artificial world. To experience VR, you wear a head-mounted device or headset that is connected to a smartphone, computer or game console. Popular VR devices include the PlayStation VR, Google Daydream, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, among others.  Today, most people are enjoying games in VR, but there are so many other types of VR experiences available, from entertainment to education, including short films, tourism, house-hunting tours, museums tours, flight simulation, swimming with ocean creatures, walking with elephants and so much more! 

VR is great fun and is continually being improved.  But when it comes to our kids, there are precautions you may want to consider.  Here are some tips for using VR headsets:

Tip 1 — Only Use in a Safe Environment

VR headsets completely cover your eyes, so you can’t see the real surroundings in your living room or wherever you are playing.  Prior to strapping on your headset, it’s important to ensure that the area around you is free of people, objects, stairs, windows, furniture, tripping hazards, or other items that you might bump into (or worse).

Tip 2 — Take Breaks

Using VR headsets for too long can make some people dizzy and impact hand-eye coordination, balance, and multi-tasking ability.  Everyone reacts to the VR experience differently.  Players who get dizzy, should stop right away.  For others who don’t have any noticeable impact, a good rule of thumb is to take a 10-minute break every half-hour at least.  Many headset manufacturers also recommend children under 12 or 13 shouldn’t use VR headsets so check the manual for your VR device.

Tip 3 — Keep it Clean

It’s fun to share the VR experience with friends, just make sure you clean the headset in between turns. No one wants a case of pink eye!   Each manufacturer has a guide on how to best clean the device, so be sure to read through the cleaning section for the best method for the hardware.  That said, the easiest thing to do is to keep non-alcoholic antibacterial wipes and microfiber cloth for the lenses / screen handy.  Get in the habit of a quick clean before the next person’s turn to avoid spreading germs.

Tip 4 – Check the rating before you play

The ESRB rating system is designed to be responsive to industry innovations, including VR. As a result, ESRB assigns rating information to VR games much in the same way as it rates boxed or digital games; based on the content of the game and the context in which it is presented to the player. For VR specifically, the user’s perspective is a key differentiator that is considered throughout the rating process. You can find ESRB ratings for PlayStation VR, Oculus VR Experiences and Google Daydream games and apps prior to purchase or download.    

Samsung Gear VR

Tip 5 – Staying Involved

Don’t be afraid to don the headset and get immersed! Many VR games, apps and experiences are built for single player, but there are also multiplayer experiences on VR that can be enjoyed by two or more members of your family. Experiencing VR with your children will not only give you a better understanding of the games and apps your children are interested in, but it’s also a great opportunity to spend some fun quality time as a family!

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