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Software developer warned by doctor of eye damage caused by VR

Virtual reality software developer prescribed glasses for eye convergence problem

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A software developer says he has been prescribed glasses for the first time, by a doctor who is convinced virtual reality (VR) has damaged his eyesight.

Danny Bittman tweeted about his doctor's advice this week, claiming the medical professional is "convinced" that his use of virtual reality headsets has caused the eye convergence problem.

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It should be noted that Bittman is an artist for Color Space, a virtual reality coloring book, and by his own estimates, has used VR headsets for close to 10,000 hours since 2016. He later said he often uses VR for six hours a day, split into 30 minutes sessions.

"Just had my first eye doctor visit in three years," Bittman tweeted. "Now I'm very worried about my future VR use. I have a new eye convergence problem that acts like dyslexia. The doc, a headset owner, is convinced my VR use caused this. He said 'these glasses we usually prescribe to 40 year old'."

Further explaining his symptoms, the developer said: "My eyes jump when I read things like a screen or books. I've always had a small level of this but it's greatly intensified now. It's also linked to headaches and vertigo."

Bittman's use falls short of casual use of virtual reality, such as those who play occasional games. But VR companies are now looking at scenarios, most recently demonstrated by Facebook and its Oculus VR division, where virtual and augmented reality headsets could be worn for several hours every day, within virtual workspaces.

Then there is XRSpace, the newly announced virtual reality headset and accompanying digital world, that encourages wearers to explore and socialize in this space.

Addressing this, Bittman suggested his condition likely came from sustained use of VR.

"This doesn't mean that VR in general is bad or shouldn't be used, but this potentially throws a match on the idea of using AR/VR all day with virtual monitors or for 3D modeling," he said.

In printed material accompanying its headsets, Oculus states that approximately one in 4,000 people "may have severe dizziness, seizures, eye or muscle twitching or blackouts triggered by light flashes or patterns," when using a VR headset, or watching televisions and playing video games. Children under 13 are advised not to use Oculus VR headsets.

Bittman said his new glasses "will correct the issue," but added: "That doesn't change the fact that my eyes degraded dramatically in the last three years."

Writing about the safety of virtual reality in 2017, the American Academy of Ophthalmology said then that the headsets can cause eye strain and fatigue, adding: "Staring at a VR headset screen for a prolonged period may cause eye strain or fatigue. That's because you tend [to] blink less when using a digital screen device than you normally do."

"Individuals who have amblyopia, strabismus, or other conditions that inhibit focusing, depth perception or normal 3D vision may not experience the 3D effects of VR headsets," the Academy added. "That does not mean that vision disorders can be caused by VR headsets. However, children or adults who have these disorders may be more likely to experience headaches and/or eye fatigue when using VR gear."

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