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The Limitations of Virtual Reality

Abhinav Girdhar
By Abhinav Girdhar | Last Updated on February 26th, 2024 7:37 am | 5-min read
The Limitations of Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality is one of the most exciting technologies of the current generation. With its continuous evolution and ongoing developments, everything bodes well for the technology in the future. Whatever sci-fi predicted is becoming real and it’s exhilarating to see the technological revolution continuing.

gaming industry has already started applying Virtual Reality extensively with some exciting results, the likes of Resident Evil and Pavlov. The most surprising application of VR was the medical industry with reputed hospitals using it regularly to help patients. If you’re interested in how VR works, click here.

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The Limitations of Virtual Reality

Despite its various applications and increasing popularity, virtual reality at the end of the day is technology. And history is proof that each technology has its drawbacks. Virtual Reality is no different. Let us take a look at the limitations of VR as a whole.

  1. Cost of VR devices

    As with any new technology, the initial costs are extremely high. Even mediocre VR devices are priced fairly high. This trend is likely to continue for the decade to come until we figure out how to reduce costs for VR capable devices.

    Google did play a very smart game with VR with its Google Cardboard. However, it’s not exactly a VR set but rather just a smartphone assembly made of cardboard. It does do the job though. It allows users to experience VR at a significantly cheaper rate. That being said, its application while good for education, is limited in the broad sense of the technology.

    Cost of VR devices

    Coming to true VR devices most devices cost about anything between 300 and 800$. As the capability of VR grows, the devices will evolve just like computers do. All current consumer VR devices tend to work in conjunction with existing ones. For example, Popular ‘VR’ devices like the Oculus connect to your PC and then run the software. That makes Oculus both a VR device and a computer accessory. True VR sets with their own assemblies are still a drawing-board concept thanks to costs involved in creating one.

  2. Size of VR software

    A less looked at the aspect of VR devices, the software for VR is significantly bigger. Since VR devices involve more programming for their immersive experience, it is a given. VR software take up a lot of space and require a lot of computing power compared to other devices. That is one of the reasons that VR software for sale usually look worse than normal computer software.

    While compressing software isn’t really all that difficult, it’ll take time for VR software to shrink in size.  But this compression will, in turn, increase the initial costs of VR.

  3. Locomotion Sickness

    VR successfully mimics the illusion of reality by placing it close to your visual space but it is also the exact thing that can break the illusion that VR is trying to create. VR devices still mimic movement through joysticks and inbuilt game/software mechanics and not the actual movement of the person. This causes what is termed as locomotion sickness.

    Locomotion Sickness

    In medical terms, when moving around in VR, your eyes perceive your body as moving and they send a signal to your brain that you’re moving. But the inertia and balance of the body are maintained by fluids in your ears. The ear fluids don’t send the same signal since they’re not moving which confuses your brain and causes uneasiness, nausea and in the worst cases fainting. It’s similar to what you feel when traveling in a bus on a winding road.

  4. The weight of VR devices

    Barring Google Cardboard, all VR devices are quite heavy and extended use can cause headaches and neck pain. There are ways to cancel out this weight with durable and lighter materials, but this is likely to increase the costs of VR devices substantially. This is why there is a slight consumer tilt to Augmented Reality. Augmented reality tends to cancel out the problem mentioned above.

  5. Lack of the vision of the surroundings

    Not exactly a deal-breaking problem, but the truth is that, once you put on a VR device, you cannot see around you. This is a great drawback when using a VR device at home and the lack of vision can cause expensive accidents. A lot of videos on the Internet prove the same.

  6. Potential Addiction

    This is a problem that many psychologists fear when talking about Virtual Reality. VR removes people from reality and that is never really a good thing. VR, for now, loses out on the realism aspect thanks to its limited graphical capability.

    But with better graphics and immersive and engaging content, addiction to VR is a very real possibility. Addiction to videogames is already a common problem, but addiction to the VR experience will be more pronounced thanks to the complete immersion that the technology provides.]

  7. Graphical limits

    VR is nearly a decade old now. For a software device as old as this, it is pretty limited in its graphical interface. While the support for VR based experiences is good thanks to 360-degree cameras, its major application in the gaming industry is so far completely disappointing.

    Most VR graphics are comparatively worse when compared to all existing consoles and they look at least a decade old. Game physics is almost non-existent on VR platforms. Given that the size of the software is a drawback in itself, VR fights a losing battle from a business perspective.

  8. Potential Eye Damage and Vergence conflict

    Coming to a major problem with VR, potential eye damage is high up in the list. VR is basically a screen placed a few centimeters from your eyes. This has a significant effect on eyesight and eye damage is a major cause of worry.

    Our addiction to computers itself raised a new problem called Computer Vision Syndrome. There is substantial proof that both computers and televisions have increased eyesight problems worldwide with smartphones adding to that list. While VR uses high-quality display screens, this is a very real drawback and influential enough to get the government involved if things go out of hand.

    Potential Eye Damage and Vergence conflict

    With VR there is an additional problem called the Vergence conflict. Basically, under normal vision, the focal length is equal to the vergence length. In layman’s terms, this length lets us focus.  But when a VR screen is placed the focal length of the object becomes half the vergence length. This breaks our focus and makes our eyes work harder causing significant fatigue to the eyes. What makes VR software expensive is getting over this problem using complicated techniques. But, in most VR devices this problem still hasn’t been solved.

  9. Lack of understanding

    VR is still a fairly new concept. While its applications seem far and wide, each technology faces a limitation that cannot be accounted for. So far, VR has been facing its greatest one. What is the use? Apart from a limited application in the gaming, healthcare and education industries, VR serves no utilitarian purposes in major businesses.

    Sure, there are innovative uses of VR but its direct cousin AR is the complete opposite with almost every major industry benefitting from it. This lack of application makes investing in VR a non-lucrative option for investors which is never a good thing. With this out of the way, its application in the fields mentioned is significant so VR is the technology that will grow over time. Compare VR games 5 years ago and now. There is a marked difference in their experience. Another aspect of the lack of understanding of VR is other limitations that the technology might bring. That is something time will tell. Coming to the important question.

Is VR worth it despite the various limitations?

A BIG RESOUNDING YES. Just because its applications are limited thanks to current technology, doesn’t mean that it’s risky. For the industries where VR is popular, it is also the revolutionary technology. VR both in healthcare and gaming is the next big thing. VR is the dark horse of modern technology. You can never really predict when it’ll leave everything else behind. It’s just a matter of time before VR has its big break.

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Abhinav Girdhar

Founder and CEO of Appy Pie

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