No matter how inherently safe something is, somewhere an unlucky person is going to manage to kill themselves while doing it. It’s just the law of averages reaping the poor sods at the extremes of the probability distribution.
VR is not the absolute safest activity you can engage in, but in general the risks are pretty low. Despite millions of VR headsets already in circulation, the first ever VR-related death was reported on 22 December 2017 by TASS,a Russian news site.
While the details are pretty scant, it seems the poor fellow tripped and fell onto a glass coffee table. The resulting lacerations and loss of blood were the factors that finally did him in.
It’s a tragic accident and a timely reminder that just because you feel like you’re in the VR world, doesn’t mean your body is suddenly immune to real world injury. Fall from a loss of balance or tripping over objects are likely sources of trouble, but here are our general tips for staying safe and alive while enjoying VR.
1.Do a Pre-inspection
Once you’ve donned your HMD you can no longer look out for potential hazards, so it’s a good idea to have a decent look around your environs for any potential trouble. Wet floors, forgetting the stove on, that sort of thing. If you’re doing stand-up or room-scale VR it’s best to clear a dedicated space for it and make use of the appropriate software guards, if any.
2. Have a Buddy for Room-scale VR
While this is not always possible for everyone to do, it’s a good idea to only use room-scale VR with another person to be your spotter. If you can’t do this then it’s a good idea to simply stick to seated or standing VR experiences.
3. Don’t Drink and VR
Drugs that make you woozy and alcohol are not a good combination with VR experiences. Not only are they more likely to make you susceptible to motion sickness, they can also affect your sense of balance and lead to a nasty fall.
4. Check In With the Real World
Many modern HMDs now have a flip-up design which makes it convenient to quickly switch between VR and reality. Make a point of doing this on a regular basis to make sure everything is still OK around you. It might even be helpful to set an alarm that goes off at regular intervals.
Better Safe Than Sorry
VR is meant to be fun and provide an escape from the realities of everyday life. This sad event shows that even when we’re having fun we have to do so responsibly. As VR becomes more intense and our reactions more visceral, the chances of injury are greater. Hey, maybe someone could invent some VR pads and helmets?