Industry reflection: What can publishers do to try to prevent public concern around the ethics of virtual reality?

“Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment.”[1] This means that the users can become desensitised to what they see and hear, for instance: if someone is exposed to watching crime or violence the content has less of an emotional and sympathetic impact. Also, if someone is exposed to violence for too long then it can lead to the user not finding the content shocking, it won’t have the same impact it has on someone who isn’t as exposed. “Virtual reality is primarily experienced through two of the five senses: sight and sound.”1 Individuals who spend a lot of time open to the virtual reality can become extremely anti-sociable and fic-sated with fictional characters.

Case study: Mark Howe ended up killing his own mother due to his exposure to virtual reality and violent programs. The phycologist explained he had a cyber- addiction.2

Cyber- addiction is a big issue with virtual reality. Users can become addicted to VR gaming and as a consequence starts to blur the boundaries between real and fake life.3

Catherine Allen, Virtual Reality producer explains how a rapid build-up of public concern surrounding the immersive medium could be detrimental. She said to prevent panic, “test the idea really early on with your audience before you’ve even made it, see what their response is”, and this then allows creators to see if it “pushes any panic buttons early on.”4

“A study commissioned by Wiggin found that 59 per cent of UK adults are concerned about the potential reduced sense of right and wrong in VR, with 58 per cent worried they will become addicted, and 55 per cent fearing that VR will affect their behavior.”4

To prevent public concern parental guidance’s can be put in place and hope that the users adhere to them.5 Also, put warnings at the start to make the users aware of content issues.6

 

[1] http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/virtual-reality

2 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2539838/Reclusive-care-home-worker-obsessed-TV-killer-Dexter-stabbed-mother-53-times-left-bleed-death-rowed-cannabis-smoking.html

3 https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/02/the-good-and-the-bad-of-escaping-to-virtual-reality/385134/

4 https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/why-publishers-of-virtual-reality-need-to-be-aware-of-moral-panic/s2/a702215/

5 https://parentzone.org.uk/parent-guide-to-virtual-reality and https://geekdad.com/2016/05/10-things-vr-and-htc-vive/

6 https://developer.oculus.com/design/latest/concepts/bp_intro/

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