Visual aftereffects and simulator sickness among side effects of mixed reality headsets

US researchers have urged companies to show “caution and restraint” when it comes to encouraging daily use of the technology

A girl wearing a white top and shorts rides a bicycle while wearing an augmented reality headset. In the background is a fence and a field

Scientists from Stanford University and Michigan State University have highlighted a range of side effects from wearing mixed reality headsets.

As part of their study published in Technology, Mind and Behaviour, a group of 11 researchers each spent more than two hours wearing mixed reality headsets in a variety of settings. 

The researchers wore the headsets while walking outdoors, playing games, engaging in a conversation and cooking. A chaperone who was not wearing a headset was always present to ensure safety.

Field notes from these experiences reported a range of side effects from wearing mixed reality headsets – including eye strain, nausea, dizziness, and headaches.

The researchers also reported difficulties in accurately judging distances, especially during spatial tasks such as carrying a ball or placing pieces into a jigsaw.

“These effects were more pronounced when trying to understand the position of moving people, such as navigating through crowds,” the authors noted.

Alongside their experiences wearing mixed reality headsets, the scientists conducted a literature review covering topics from social implications to longitudinal effects and visual aftereffects.

The researchers acknowledge the benefits of mixed reality headsets but encourage further consideration of the effects of daily wear.

“We conclude that the passthrough experience can inspire awe and lends itself to many applications, but will also likely cause visual aftereffects, lapses in judgments of distance, induce simulator sickness, and interfere with social connection,” the authors shared.

“We recommend caution and restraint for companies lobbying for daily use of these headsets, and urge scholars to rigorously and longitudinally study this phenomenon,” they emphasised.