Did you know that the typical American adult spends 7 hours and 4 minutes staring at screens every day? That’s a whopping 106 days, which is about 1/3 of the year. One can say, we spend 1/3 of our lives just staring at screens. Yikes!
Is Apple Vision Pro Safe for the Eyes? With the Apple Vision Pro being a wearable device, which allows users to switch views between virtual and reality there is no need to put this “screen” down, meaning it is likely this number will rise.
Given this latest technology also introduces the concept of spatial computing, no controller is required. Instead, you navigate through your voice, hands, and eyes, and it’s the impact on your eyes that could be of concern.
Apple Vision Pro is an upcoming mixed-reality headset developed by Apple Inc. It was announced on June 5, 2023, at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, with availability scheduled for early 2024 in the United States
Apple Vision Pro is an impressive piece of innovation, no doubt, but it does raise some Eye and general health concerns, especially in light of our increasingly screen-inundated lifestyles.
The Vision Pro is not available as of yet. Apple plans to release it sometime in early 2024, and it will be available first in the United States before expanding to other countries. Apple has made Vision Pro Developer Kits available, but these are limited to select developers and are designed for app testing.
The Apple Vision Pro, much like other Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality (VR/AR) devices, could potentially present several health concerns if used excessively — over 10 hours a day, for instance. While Apple hasn’t yet released specific health guidelines for this device, we can look into research on similar technologies to discern potential issues.
Here are my top 3 eye and general health concerns for VR/AR devices like the Apple Vision Pro:
1. Digital Eye Health.
With screens mere inches from users’ eyes, prolonged use could lead to eye strain and discomfort. It’s a phenomenon well-documented in the use of VR/AR devices, and we have no reason to believe the Vision Pro is exempt. Here are some concerns to consider:
- Digital Eye Strain also known as computer vision syndrome is a term given to a collective set of symptoms that come about following prolonged exposure to digital devices.
Typical symptoms include asthenopia, headaches, eyestrain, and eye fatigue induced by screen work. These symptoms appear to be pronounced when engaging in excessively close work and the Apple Vision Pro appears to bring us closer than ever to apps, content, messaging platforms, and more.
- Dry Eyes – Working on computer screens and tablets requires concentration. The more you concentrate, the less you blink, which has a negative impact on the quality and quantity of your tears. This results in your eyes feeling less lubricated and irritable.
- Infrared and LED exposure – The Apple Vision Pro’s “high-performance eye tracking system of LEDs and infrared camera projects invisible light patterns onto each eye”. Unlike blue light exposure, invisible and infrared light are electromagnetic waves we cannot see.
They’ve been used in many devices such as trackers, satellites, sensors, and CCTVs, and without a doubt are very useful. Based on current exposure limits they cause no acute damage to the eye. However, research is needed to investigate the profound effects from long-term potentially more intense exposure.
- Light Adaptation – The Apple Vision Pro headset blocks out unwanted light, meaning your eyes will need time to adjust when the device is removed. This time is amplified in an aging eye.
There is also the issue for eyeglasses wearers. As this device is made to fit the wearer snuggly to omit any outside light sources, it is likely that those who wear glasses won’t be able to do so while using the device. This could create many vision challenges.
2. Physical well-being.
- Immersive tech can promote sedentary behavior, a lifestyle linked to a slew of health issues such as obesity and heart disease. According to a study from the NIH, it was concluded that Electronic devices in the bedroom and social media membership seem to increase the risk for greater total sedentary time.
- In addition, the device’s weight and posture during use could potentially contribute to neck and back problems. Neck pain is a growing problem as more and more people use virtual reality headsets. The neck is not designed to support the weight of a headset, and extended use can lead to pain and discomfort. In some cases, neck pain can even be caused by the virtual reality itself, as the movement can strain the neck muscles.
- On the mental health front, while VR/AR technologies open up exciting new ways of interaction and exploration, they also risk fostering social isolation and potential disconnection from the physical world. Some people may also experience disorientation, dissociation, or detachment from reality, after using VR for a long time. These effects can impair the user’s ability to function normally or safely in the real world.
3. Sleep patterns.
- Exposure to screens, especially late into the night, can interfere with the body’s circadian rhythm, leading to sleep disruptions. We’ve seen this with smartphones and laptops; the Vision Pro could very well have a similar effect.
- As the Apple Vision Pro boasts more pixels than a “4K TV for each eye”, there is a concern around blue light exposure. Screens, like your phone and TV, emit blue light which interrupts and reduces the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Extended screen exposure can therefore cause disruptions to your sleeping patterns and sleep quality. Lack of sleep is something that in turn can also negatively impact your eye health.
Of course, these are all potential threats, not certainties. As with all technologies, responsible use is key. Regular breaks, physical activity, mindful usage, and a comprehensive eye exam with your optometrist can mitigate these risks. But Apple, along with the rest of the tech industry, must be proactive in educating users about these concerns and provide guidelines for safe use.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts and continue the dialogue on this important topic. As we leap into the era of spatial computing, let’s ensure we’re doing so with our eyes and general health and well-being in mind.
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Top image used under the Pixabay Content License. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.