Paper 7

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Effects of Immersive Virtual Reality Viewing on Young Children:  Visuomotor Function, Postural Stability and Visually-Induced Motion Sickness

Lawrence Tychsen, MD; Paul Foeller, MS
St. Louis Children’s Hospital at Washington University Medical Center
St. Louis, MO

Introduction:  To assess the safety of VR Headset (virtual reality binocular near-eye display) use in young children. Product safety warnings that accompany VR Headsets generally ban their use in children under age 13 y.  No studies to date have addressed VR Headset effects specifically in pediatric populations.

Methods:  Recordings were obtained in 26 children (15 male) age 4-10 y (mean 7.95 ± 1.82 y). Minimum CDVA was 20/50 (logMAR 0.4) in each eye and stereoacuity 3000 arc sec or better (criteria did not exclude children with amblyopia or strabismus). A Sony PlayStation VR Headset was worn for 2 sequential play sessions (each 30 m) of a first-person 3D flying game (Eagle Flight) requiring head movement to control flight direction (pitch, yaw and roll axes). Baseline testing preceded VR exposure and each VR session was followed by post-VR testing of: CNVA and CDVA, stereoacuity; accommodation, vergence angle/phoria/tropia and refraction (digital PlusOptix Autorefractor). Postural stability was measured by a MEMS accelerometer (Sway Medical LLC). Visually-induced motion sickness (VIMS) was assessed by questionnaire (SSQ) modified for pediatric use.

Results:  Twenty-four of 26 children (92%) completed both VR play sessions with no significant change from baseline in any visuomotor measure. Two girls (8% of participants) terminated VR play during session 1 due to VIMS. No other child in the study terminated a session (majority asked to continue beyond the session limit). Postural stability measures showed no significant change from baseline. No VR after-effects (“flashbacks”) were reported.

Discussion:  VR play did not induce post VR postural instability. The prevalence of VIMS and post VR after effects may be less than that reported for adults.

Conclusion:  Young children tolerate fully-immersive 3D virtual reality game play without noteworthy effects on monocular or binocular visual functions.

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