A few hours after Toby Robicelli put on the $300 virtual reality headset he received for Christmas for the first time, the Baltimore teen, who was playing a shooter called “Superhot VR,” lost his balance and fractured his kneecap. .
“We got it installed around 2:00 a.m.,” Toby’s mother, Allison Robicelli, said of the tech device, “and by 8:00 we were on our way to the ER.” She fainted when she saw her leg, she said, and 14-year-old Toby is now on crutches.
VR headset sales increased more than 70% last year from 2020, according to International Data Corp., to 7.9 million units. The demand is fueled in part by the growing hype around the metaverse, a term proponents use to describe a future 3-D version of the Internet, comprising virtual worlds where people will come together to work, learn and play.
As interest in the devices grows, so does their reputation for being a source of pain and embarrassment.
When Nintendo Co.’s Wii made its debut in the mid-2000s, people got hurt using its motion-sensitive controllers. With virtual reality headsets, as early users discovered, the risk of tripping is higher, because the headset is completely isolated from the real world.
Lauren Murray was sympathetic the first time her husband, Taylor Murray, cut his right hand while punching his way through a virtual reality boxing match, spattering blood on the hardwood floor and blinds in the living room. from his home in Gainesville, Florida. But when he broke a glass vase a few weeks later while playing virtual tennis, she no longer saw virtual reality as a practical way for him to exercise.
“Why don’t you go to the gym like a normal person?” Ms Murray, 36, recalled asking her.
Murray said she bought a new vase and has since cleaned out the space where she uses the headphones. Causing more damage seems inevitable. “I am sure that I will make the same mistake again,” he said.
Last spring, 12-year-old Landon Woodward of Rockwood, Michigan, slammed his right hand into a desk while playing the virtual reality game “Gorilla Tag.” The nail on his middle finger turned black and eventually fell off. He was trying to tag an opponent in a seemingly huge jungle, while in the real world he only had a 5 by 6 foot open space in his brother’s room.
His father, Matt Woodward, said he has since set up a virtual reality arcade for Landon, filled with pillows.
James McLay, 30, from Falkirk, Scotland, bought a mat to stand on so he can feel the area where it is safe for him to play in VR. He did this after an incident where his body slowly slid into his girlfriend’s living room while he was playing the sword fighting game ‘Until You Drop’. Having lost track of his location, he attempted to hit an enemy, causing his hand to slam into the metal frame of a nearby shelf with full force. For a week, he was unable to bend a finger on his right hand, which now has a permanent lump, he said.
Mr. McLay said he is more careful with the help of his safety mat.
“I know what to avoid, so I won’t end up running into a wall or anything else, or hitting my TV, which I did,” he said.
A Reddit group called VRtoER, started in 2019, has around 80,000 members.
Jay Kim, an associate professor of Occupational and Environmental Health at Oregon State University who has studied virtual reality injuries, said users should take frequent breaks to avoid harmful outcomes such as “gorilla arm syndrome,” a sore caused by holding your arms raised for long periods of time. .
VR headsets typically come with safety instructions, and typically display a grid when a person approaches the edges of the recommended space surrounding your setup. Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. recently updated the grid system for its Quest 2 headset, called Guardian, so users can be alerted when a person, pet or object approaches.
“We’re glad people are enjoying their Quest headsets, but safety comes first,” a Meta spokeswoman said. A spokeswoman for Sony Group Corp. referred to a video with safety tips for using its PlayStation VR headset, such as cleaning furniture, creating a buffer zone and staying seated.
Last spring, Jake Masters of Charlotte, NC, was in a virtual Roman coliseum fighting a tiger, but in the real world, he was fighting air. He ended up dislocating his right shoulder and required months of physical therapy.
“Not having touch interaction allowed me to overextend it,” said the 29-year-old, who injured the same shoulder seven years earlier during an actual boxing match. “I wasn’t supposed to do real boxing after the first injury, so I thought I could play.”
Mr. Masters is back to gaming in VR, but only while sitting down. He plans to revisit the virtual coliseum where he was injured once he makes a full recovery. “Next time I’ll let the tiger eat me,” he said.
James Buckingham of Bedford, England, said he once accidentally hit a girlfriend on the head while playing “Beat Saber,” a virtual reality game that involves hitting, or dodging, or dodging moving neon blocks with lightsabers, to the rhythm of popular music. songs
“I heard this screeching and the crumbling of someone hitting the floor,” said Mr Buckingham, 44. “I was terrified and immediately took my headphones off, and bless him, he’s laughing.” He said the incident had nothing to do with their subsequent breakup.
A virtual reality mishap caught on camera led New Orleans-area Dean Cacioppo to a small amount of fame and a fortune. A family member recorded him diving headfirst into a 75-inch flat-screen TV two years ago while playing a demo that came with his headphones.
In the virtual reality demo, Mr. Cacioppo was standing on the edge of a plank atop a skyscraper. Suddenly, he lunged forward, in real life, because he wanted to show that he wasn’t afraid.
“I just decided to jump knowing I wasn’t literally jumping off a building,” the 48-year-old said. “I wanted to be the strong father.”
Mr Cacioppo said he was lucky to walk away from the incident with only a bruised ego. “It was fine,” he said, “but the TV was pretty bad.”
Two of her daughters posted the seven-second video of the accident on TikTok and Twitter, where it went viral. Mr. Cacioppo sold partial rights to use it to a marketing agency in Australia for $300. That helped pay for a new television, which cost about $2,000.