Majority of Americans may not be able to use VR headsets

Most (nearly all?) virtual reality viewers available online can not be used by those who need to wear eyeglasses, which is a majority of Americans.

The Problem

  • VR viewers lack space on the face side to accommodate the wearing of eye glasses.
  • VR viewers lack diopter adjustments.
  • VR viewers lack inter pupil distance (IPD) adjustments.

Who Does This Impact?

75% of Americans use some form of corrective eye lenses, split as 64% wear glasses and 11% wear contact lenses (Source: Corrective Lenses Statistics – Statistic Brain).

Nearly 100% of those over the age of 45 require reading glasses for close in viewing – or using most any virtual reality viewer. Almost all viewers lack sufficient space to wear reading glasses when the viewer is on the face. Attempting to wear reading glasses with a VR viewer is extremely uncomfortable as the viewer pushes the glasses into their face.

Unlike camera viewfinders that include a diopter adjustment, VR viewers are almost all fixed focal lengths or have limited adjustments (possibly only for myopia but not presbyopia).

Most VR viewers (but not all) have a fixed inter pupil distance (the distance between the eyes is fixed even though people have different distances – think of how binoculars work to address that!).

Consequently, VR viewing is – for a majority of Americans – either impossible or painful.

A few of the higher end viewers have – during the past year – begun to address this problem either by enabling the wearing of glasses while using the viewer, or by adding a focus adjustment.

The focus adjustment, however, is not sufficient. Of the 75% who need vision correction, some have significantly different corrections between the left and right eye. All VR focus adjustments make the same adjustment for both eyes – meaning such individuals can only get a good focus in one eye.

Again, think of binoculars. Binoculars solved this problem decades ago by having a master focus ring that adjust both eye views simultaneously, plus a single diopter adjustment for one eye. The inter pupil distance is adjusted in binoculars by positioning each lens further apart. Through these adjustments, binoculars long ago provided solutions to the majority that need vision correction.

A reasonable guess is that the VR industry views its customers as young gamers and hired young people with excellent vision to design their products, but who are oblivious to real world customers.

If the VR industry does not address these design defects urgently, the future of VR is itself in doubt.

When a majority of potential customers are likely to have unsatisfactory experiences, they will not purchase VR products and content. They will not post positive comments in reviews and online forums.

Media pundits said 3D failed because people had to wear “3D goggles” (their term for 3D glasses). In reality, the problem was a lack of compelling 3D content for consumers to watch at home.

VR, which really does use “3D Goggles” (and helmets too), is headed down the same path to oblivion if it does not deliver VR viewers that can be worn and used by a majority of the population. This is a significant VR industry marketing failure.

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