Meet Dean Johnson and his partner Sarah Jones, the duo who has created an unofficial record of soughts, by spending 48 continuous hours immersed in the virtual world, blindfolded from the real world by their VR headsets.
The health and safety rules for using a VR headset are widely known, and in case you have had an experience with a VR headset, you must be well aware of them. There are, of course, restrictions on doing certain tasks with your headset on (like riding a moving vehicle). More importantly, we are warned to take frequent breaks while having an experience with Virtual Reality.
Dean Johnson is out to challenge these very rules pertaining to virtual reality. Off late, Johnson seems to have developed a liking for it! Last year, when VR had just hit the mainstream, Johnson had spent 24 continuous hours immersed in different VR experiences. This year, he has only doubled that effort, taking along Sarah Jones from Coventry University on the 2-day journey into VR, only to be interrupted by 5-minute breaks every hour to record vlogs.
What exactly did they do?
Now let us get a sense of how exactly were their two days in the virtual space. The adventurer duo didn’t just spend the 48 hours watching movies and playing games in virtual reality, they did more and got as physical as possible. Getting physical was an important part of this experiment, to test the impact of VR against the length and breadth of it.
They wore the VR goggles while riding go-karts, getting tattooed and walking across the wings of an airplane in-flight.
Daring. Pretty Much!
The Experience – 48 hours in the Virtual World
The 2-days of Virtual Reality meant, of course, a drastic change from the normal routine life. Meeting with people from the real world could happen only by logging into a VR-based social media app like Facebook Spaces. Sleeping, and waking up were completely different experiences, as against the real life.
Impact of Virtual Reality on (real) Physical Pain
These ‘experiments’ with VR can be capitalized pretty accurately by this account by Johnson:
Johnson decided to wear VR headset to a tattoo parlor to observe if the distraction of a false reality could neutralize the pain from the needle – that was, of course, coming from the real world. And the results were astounding!
He removed the headset for a part of the time while getting tattooed, to feel the pain in the real world, and spent the rest of the time with the headset on, getting tattooed (in real) while in the virtual world. Johnson compares the two experiences like this,”If the headset off was my 10 benchmark (for pain),” he says, “It came down to like a six or a seven. It really did seem to have some effect.” More so, his Apple Watch indicated that his heart rate also dropped in VR, at around 74 beats per minute in the headset to around 103 without it.
Consequences on Normal Life
This experiment did have its consequences on the regular health of Johnson and Jones. But they didn’t die, as VR bigwigs had dreaded refusing to be part of his adventure. After the experiment, Johnson observed that his natural vision was a little more blurry for a few days. But it was the physical pain that was worse. “The bridge of my nose got bruised,” he says, “And Sarah’s cheeks have kind of permanent red marks on them.”
What does he conclude? “If the health and safety warnings were right, it wasn’t because of the risk of experiencing virtual reality for long periods – it was actually because the headsets were never designed to be worn indefinitely!”