I grew up in the time of Nintendo family computers and Glico’s amusement park (Timezone was not even around then). So, when my seven-year-old niece Dana received her reward for winning the silver medal in the National Taekwondo championship, the Oculus Quest virtual reality headset, I was just as excited to try it with her.
The Oculus Quest VR headset is an important piece of the metaverse, as they allow users to dive into the realm of virtual reality. The metaverse is a virtual world that offers access to the 3D virtual spaces, solutions, and environments created by users. Think The Matrix. That’s as easy as I can describe it to the non-digital natives like us, but it’s still a vague concept. Essentially, it’s a virtual world that parallels our IRL lives. (IRL: in real life). Facebook even rebranded itself as Meta, as they envision themselves to be the prime mover in the new world, connecting users in the metaverse.
But I’m not here to talk about the metaverse, just Google it. How was my experience in the metaverse? It lasted all of 10 minutes. From VR to the ER.
I strapped on the VR headset and was ready to be immersed. Dana was guiding me the entire time. She even chose the easiest game for me. She told me about two games, the job simulator and the vacation simulator. She said on the vacation simulator, creating memories was key. Wow, it already sounded like my kind of world.
I started in the virtual world as a store clerk in a convenience store. It was easy enough, I opened the store, walked behind the counter, and welcomed my first customer. “It” (it was a robot) bought a bag of chips, I scanned the item and as I was handing it back to it, the chips slipped from my hand. I tried to grab it several times and it ended up falling off the counter. As soon as I tried to go over the counter, that’s when I realized there was no real counter. I slipped and my forehead hit the corner of a table.
Note that we were in an open space, of course, not basketball-court wide, but we cleared the living room and I was walking on a large carpet, so the end of the carpet signals you’re about to be out of bounds. However, when you’re so immersed, you forget the “outside world.”
I ended up with a huge goose egg that developed into a periorbital ecchymosis after 72 hours, that required a cranial CT scan to rule out any facial fracture. Suffice to say, the VR proves to be accident-prone. Google it, there are over 80,000 users on a Reddit forum called “VRtoER.” The forum’s description: We all hated that SoundCloud, too. Our bad. We didn’t think someone would promote the sound of them banging their own grandma.
It sounds funny enough, but mishaps mean real pain for some of us.
So, what should we do? Deprive our children of the metaverse? Perhaps it’s important to know these things early on (like what is the metaverse, what does a VR headset do, etc.), and take necessary precautions:
Play in a wide, open space free of pointed objects, solid corners, and the like. As I mentioned we were in a wide and open space, and I was walking on a carpet. VR headsets also have a virtual boundary system that allows you to designate a safe space around your living room. My 12-year-old nephew Marco ran to the living room as soon as he heard the crash and exclaimed, “You were not supposed to cross the boundaries!” I didn’t, I was trying to go over the counter! (That wasn’t actually there.)
When setting virtual boundaries, try to give yourself a few extra feet beyond the margin. So even when you forget and get a little too close to your virtual boundary, you’re still likely to avoid real damage.
Never play unsupervised. To be fair, I was being supervised and guided, but by a seven-year-old. My much older nephew Marco said he would play unsupervised and not once did he ram into anything. I think I can conclude that with their generation’s mastery of Roblox and Minecraft, they can navigate the metaverse with no problem. But still, it’s better to be supervised by someone else who is actually in the real world. After all, even Neo and Trinity had to be supervised while they were in The Matrix.
Play away from small children or pets. They wouldn’t understand that you’re in Zombie land trying to fight away zombies and might suddenly swing at them accidentally.
VR requires balance and spatial awareness. Obviously, don’t even think that going into virtual reality while inebriated is trippy. No, that is just stupid.
If you think you don’t have good balance, sitting will reduce your chances of losing balance and smashing into a nearby object.
Hold on to the controller, keep it attached to your body with the built-in tethers or wrist loops. It’s easy to forget the laws of physics governing the controllers in the real world when you’re holding a virtual sword, in my case virtual potato chips. You might end up accidentally throwing the controller at someone nearby when you get a little enthusiastic at swinging that virtual ax at a zombie.
Learn basic first aid. I iced my forehead every two hours for the first 24 hours to reduce the swelling, and started warm compress after to promote blood circulation in the area for faster healing. Always monitor any head injury within the first few hours. See a doctor immediately.
VR is awesome. Just don’t hurt yourself while playing in it.