Why The Metaverse Might Put Your Eyes on The Blink

selective focus of blue-eyed person
selective focus of blue-eyed person

Why The Metaverse Might Put Your Eyes on The Blink

Visitors to the Metaverse may want to take a few minutes to rest their eyes during sessions to avoid eye-related problems, according to a team of Kwangwoon University researchers. They report that technologies used to access the Metaverse — such as head-mounted displays — are correlated with significantly lower blink rates and that could lead to or aggravate eye conditions and diseases.

The team, which reported its findings in a recent issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, investigated head-mounted displays (HMD) that are used to interface with virtual reality (VR) environments and augmented reality (AR) glasses. In the study, the researchers found that both HMD and AR glasses lowered the blink rate of users, raising the odds of eye harm, such as dry eyes and keratitis, which is inflammation of the cornea.

Citing previous studies, the researchers further report that the rate of blinking is an often unrecognized key to eye health and even an indicator of overall health.

They write: “Blinking is an important factor in ocular physiology, and involuntary blinking is controlled by mechanisms associated with fatigue, loss of attention, and stress. Blink speed and duration are used in various fields, such as assessing sleepiness, evaluating driver workload, diagnosing neurological disorders and diagnosing Parkinson’s disease…”

People tend to blink less when they are involved in immersive activities, the researchers report, citing several previous studies.

“In general, the blink rate tends to decrease during work compared with that at rest,” the researchers write. “In addition, the blink rate tends to decrease during reading or demanding tasks, as these are more visually strict than the typical visual activities. The higher the focal degree, the lower the blink rate. According to various experiments related to blinking, the lead pilot has a lower blink rate with a shorter duration than that of the co-pilot in a simulated flight. Individuals driving on busy city roads have a lower blink rate than those driving on quiet, small city roads. In the study by Kong et al., the blink rate was twice as high when looking at a white wall than when looking at a monitor or reading.”

The team theorized that highly immersive Metaverse-type environments would have similar effects on blinking. To test that hypothesis, the researchers recruited 21 participants to view content in four conditions: natural environment, a typical computer monitor, VR HMD and AR glasses. The participants viewed content in the environments for 1 minute.

The blink rate per minute dropped from 18.05 in the natural environment to the 15.81 while looking at a monitor. For the AR glasses, the blink rate per minute was measured to be 14.10. Participants in the VR HMD registered the lowest blink rates. Subjects in that condition blinked about 10.81 times per minute, the lowest rate among technologies tested in the group.

People should keep this in mind when using virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, the researchers suggest. It may only require resting the eyes at regular intervals. Parents should also monitor their children’s Metaverse activities, the researchers added.

They write: “In adults, it is recommended to stop using HMD for a while and give rest to the eyes if the individual experiences dryness. Children need sufficient guidance from their parents. Since individual blink rates are very important in ocular physiology, the blink rate during the use of special content should be observed as a major functional factor.”

The work received support from the Ministry of Science and ICT, Korea; the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Creative Content Agency.

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