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Experiencing Hallucinations After VR – Is That Normal?

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So, you have finally decided on your favourite VR set, unboxed it and decided to plug-in into the possibilities it offers. However, if you enjoy binge watching TV shows, you might have just found yourself glued to the set, and after it comes off you might feel sensations similar to those you had in-game. Is it normal?

The human body is truly an amazing machine, the most complex in the known Universe, but as any machine it can be overridden, as is the case when using VR. The whole purpose of VR is to “trick” the mind into processing images displayed as 3D objects with the perception of depth. Do not forget, our brain is the worlds best graphics chip. It is not unsurprising if, by immersing into VR for prolonged periods of time, some images will blend in and keep appearing peripherally even after we take off our VR set.

A lot of Oculus users report seeing imaginary guardian walls after having played their favourite game for hours on end. Do not be alarmed, though, since that is something that is happening fairly commonly after prolonged play, and has been reported by most passionate of video game players, since the subconscious mind has “soaked in” the images displayed on our monitor during the prolonged periods of focus, which is especially prevalent among first person shooter games.

Scientists call it “Game transfer phenomenon” , and is fairly common among the players, but it fairly quickly dissipates after a while. The symptoms are benign, in my example after playing Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2 for hours I couldn’t stop myself after seeing a particular rail, to ponder how many points I couldn’t collect.

VR, because of the improvement in technology, can truly step-up the sensations quite a bit, but some of the games do that purposefully with the intention of offering experiences from the comfort and safety of one’s home.

Take, for example game SoundSelf. The author experiencing quite a strong LSD experience and decided to make an application which could offer the user such a sensation without any drawbacks. It uses centuries old meditation method, since it is known the effect of hallucinogenic psychoactive drugs can quite readily be experienced by those skilled in practice of meditation.

The journey into the Self begins.

Using the power of one’s voice, SoundSelf is generating powerful imagery and captivating auditory effects which after a while transform into a DMT-like pattern of lights which serves to transfer the user into a place beyond the seen, and into the journey to thy Self.

On the other hand, some hallucinations are simply a side effect of going too far in the effort to satisfy our curiosity. For example, after competing for Guinness world record for longest period of time spent watching VR movies, Alejandro Fragoso, a 26-year-old New Yorker, and Alex Christison reported having strong hallucinations, the effects of which were mitigated by a simple headset removal and a good night’s sleep.

Breaking the world record for longest VR movie watching.

In the future, we will see more and more such games and applications, after the technology starts becoming more and more powerful, and might very will be indistinguishable from the real world. That would be the peak of VR, but it is quite far away.

Not all agree, though, people at Microsoft believe that it might happen a lot sooner.

“By 2027 we will have ubiquitous virtual reality systems that will provide such rich multisensory experiences that will be capable of producing hallucinations which blend or alter perceived reality. Using this technology, humans will retrain, recalibrate and improve their perceptual systems. In contrast to current virtual reality systems that only stimulate visual and auditory senses, in the future the experience will expand to other sensory modalities including tactile with haptic devices.”

So if you have found yourself having mild visual or other sensations transported from the game even after you have removed your headset, do not be alarmed. It is perfectly normal, and is the result of the brain lagging a bit, since the whole purpose of VR headset is to trick the brain. If you find yourself having stronger experiences, that is just a sign that you have to give your brain more rest and opportunity to connect to the real world again. If you find that uncomfortable, just take more breaks between to allow yourself more rest.

In the future, the effects will surely be stronger, which will be a sign of stronger and more powerful technology and obviously a sign of progress.

VR as a Therapy and Treatment

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vr therapy PTSD and phobias

While everyone today is reasonably conversant with Virtual Reality, not many people realize that VR has entered the mainstream in many different fields. Front-line VR Headsets like the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift are used in combination with a wide variety of interesting applications. For example, VR is used to train people at different skills, and is even used to train military Special Forces.

VR in the treatment of mental disorders…

But perhaps we really are breaching a new frontier when we use Virtual Reality to treat mental disorders. Yes, VR today is being experimented with fairly extensively in treatment and therapy, though it hasn’t, of course, become mainstream yet.

VR is used to treat post-traumatic-stress-disorder or PTSD

VR has been found to be extremely effective in the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

One of the ways of treating PTSD is by what is called exposure therapy, in which a person is gently exposed a situation that they consider traumatic. The exposure is gradually increased over time until the experience is considered no longer traumatic. An excellent example of this is how VR was used to treat PTSD in returning veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq.

vr therapy PTSD

These people had suffered the usual combat trauma that occurs in any war zone. To help them deal with the associated PTSD, VR exposed them to the experience of driving around cities in Iraq or Afghanistan in a Humvee. Since the people receiving the treatment knew that they were completely safe in Virtual Reality, these Virtual Reality experiences were not considered too traumatic by them.

By gradually increasing the length of the VR sessions they were ultimately actually cured, and did not register as people suffering from PTSD in subsequent medical examinations.

A similar system of exposure therapy can be used to treat phobias

For example, if a person is afraid of spiders, they can be exposed to the creatures in Virtual Reality, where they know they’re completely safe, and this exposure can be increased over time until an unreasonable fear of spiders has been conquered.

vr therapy phobia

While these treatments are more or less experimental and not mainstream as of yet, many medical researchers foresee the day when systems for treating stress and traumatic disorders may be accessible in any home, and may be used more or less as “do it yourself” kits.

vr therapy Acrophobia fear of heights

VR in the treatment of depression

Virtual Reality has also been used in the treatment of depression. While these treatments are also in the experimental stage, medical researchers are looking at VR treatments as an actual alternative to drugs in the milder stages of depression.

vr-therapy fpr depression

For example, there is an interesting prototype game called Sparx, where a person plays a character that travels through Virtual Reality actually fighting off negative thoughts. This may seem a little too fantastic, but it has been shown to actually help the people concerned to reduce levels of depression.

Virtual Reality as a treatment for obesity and eating disorders

Virtual Reality has also been experimented with as a treatment for people suffering from obesity or from compulsions to eat in excess.

This treatment has taken quite a radical approach, in which a person has an avatar in Virtual Reality that is based upon their real looks and self in the physical world, but with physical proportions that match the weight and size that they would like to have.

This has been found to be very inspiring for people trying to lose weight, as they can see themselves in a virtual world at the exact weight and size they want to be, and see the results of actually achieving that weight and size.

VR in the treatment of autism

VR has actually helped people to deal with autism, and the resulting inability to deal with people in social situations. By interacting in VR and by using VR to simulate various social situations that an autistic person may encounter, researchers have found that autistic people can vastly improve their social skills.

Autistic people who were treated in VR considerably improved their ability to recognize emotions and intent in other people. They became much better at reading expression in both faces and tones. They also became more proficient in considering the thoughts and intent of others, and in processing those thoughts and that intent.

VR is also used to treat partial physical disability

VR systems like the one in the picture below have been used to help people suffering from physical disability, or a partial loss of physical function. VR Physiotherapy has been found to be very effective, as it minimizes the equipment required for a vast range of physical exercises and treatments.

vr-physio therapy

VR in the treatment of stroke

VR has also been experimented with to treat patients who have suffered strokes and who have lost partial control over various parts of their bodies. This is an extremely debilitating situation where a stroke victim whose right hand, for example, is affected, will find it difficult to move that hand or coordinate the movements of that hand with their mind and with their eyes.

vr therapy elderly and stroke

By using various games that require hand-eye coordination, therapists found that VR could considerably improve and increase the rate at which a person who suffered partial disability due to a stroke regained function and the use of their limbs.

Of course, as strokes affect people in very unique ways, the real problem has been designing games and various other therapeutic programs that could be applied to a wide range of patients.

As you’ve seen, VR is already being applied as a therapy in a wide range of situations.

However, we’re still only touching the surface where VR as a therapy is concerned, and applications of VR in therapy will only increase in future.     

Google Cardboard Tips for New Users

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Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard is one of the most affordable Virtual Reality options available today. Not only is it relatively cheap, but Google has gone all-out to create a vast range of educational movies and apps for Cardboard.

It’s not too much to say that Cardboard is at the very forefront of VR today, and one important reason it is so is because it’s cheap!

Google Cardboard itself is exactly what its name implies.

It is a cardboard headset with lenses that allows you to use the display of a Smartphone or iPhone as a Virtual Reality headset. As far as using existing technologies that many people possess to create accessible Virtual Reality is concerned, Google Cardboard is virtually a work of genius.

children use google cardboard

If you’ve put together Google Cardboard and like the experience, the next thing you need to do is…

Get a Bluetooth Controller

There is such a vast range of games and apps available already for Google Cardboard that you could spend a long time going through them and never explore them all. But a great bluetooth controllermany of these games can be quite clumsy if you try to play them using the magnet button.

What we recommend is a Bluetooth Controller.

This is not very expensive, and it will connect with your phone to leave your hands completely free.

Do bear in mind that you’ll need a Google Cardboard model that has head straps if you do this, since your hands will now be occupied with the controller.

How to conserve your battery when using Google Cardboard

It goes without saying that playing a complex VR game can drain a lot of energy from your phone. While this is unavoidable to some extent, using the Smartphone’s airplane mode can go a long way towards conserving resources, because the phone uses a lot of energy while scanning networks.

In airplane mode it shuts down those activities, conserving your battery and letting you use your VR for longer periods of time. Do remember that if you use your phone in airplane mode, you should download apps well in advance before trying them out.

Using the phone correctly with Cardboard

A good many people don’t place the phone in the Cardboard system correctly, and then have problems with how Google Cardboard works. Placing the phone is really very simple, just remember that the top of the phone must align with the left side of the Cardboard device. If you do not do this, one of the most obvious issues you will have is not being able to use magnet button.

google-cardboard

Try a swivelling chair

Since Google Cardboard is so intuitive, you might find that using it while in a swivelling chair allows you to access the whole experience in a very convenient manner, allowing you to look around a 3D Virtual Reality scene simply by swivelling your chair about. You’ll find this quite an interesting experience.

Common Google Apps take on a whole new Dimension!

Some of Google’s most popular apps are designed to work in VR, though many people may not realize this. Here are two things to do when first start using Google Cardboard…

Capture important moments in Virtual Reality

Google has an app for the Android called Cardboard Camera. The Cardboard Camera app allows you to capture an entire scene in Virtual Reality. Not only will the scene have three dimensional depth, but it will also have sound as well. You can then view those scenes using your Google Cardboard device, or send them to friends and share important moments of your life in Virtual Reality.

special moments in vr

Google’s Street View in Virtual Reality

Almost everyone has used Google’s Street View, which allows you to wander around different places on the planet.

Now, the same Street View is available in Virtual Reality, which means that you will be able to look at famous buildings, and in some cases even explore the insides of famous buildings, not only in a panorama, but in Virtual Reality, which means that you will actually be able to see the scene in 3D.

But did you know that Google’s Street View can take you places you never expected it to?

Google street view Australian reef
Yes, Google ‘street view’ now operates underwater at the Australian barrier reef!

The Barrier Reef too tame for you? How about a real Lava Lake in an active volcano?

Google street view Ambryn Caldera

While Google’s interesting range of VR apps are only some of the most obvious things to do using Google Cardboard, we mentioned these because not many people realize that Google Cardboard allows you to view pictures that you take in Virtual Reality, and explore the world using Google Street View in Virtual Reality.

Haven’t tried Cardboard yet?

If you haven’t tried Google Cardboard yet, I would suggest you get yourself a headset today, because it’s cheap and accessible, and because Virtual Reality is really going to be a part of the future of both PC and Smartphone technology on this planet.

And if you aren’t conversant with the future, you may get left behind when it becomes the present.