31 July 2018

How Long Does VR Need to be Comfortable?

There have been a number of people out there trying to break the world record for the longest session in virtual reality. The first record for longest time spent in a virtual reality gaming system seems to have been set by Georgie Barrat in 2017. She spent 25 hours and 24 minutes in VR (though weirdly, I can’t find a single piece of corroborating news about that, only articles quoting that number without citation).

Next up came Johannes Loeffelmann, who played Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives for 28 hours, 43 minutes and 24 seconds on a Playstation.

He was then unseated by Australian Jack McNee, of the YouTube game, who played Tilt Brush on a Vive for 36 hours, 2 minutes, and 16 seconds. (I think the more impressive stat here is playing Tilt Brush for that long.)

Next up was a performance art piece. Thorsten Wiedemann, founder and artistic director of the A MAZE Festival, spent 48 straight hours inside VR, without a single visual break. Called Disconnected, it was co-designed by Sara Lisa Vogl, and took place on a HTC Vive.

You’d think it would end there, but you would be wrong. No, that honour goes to Alejandro Fragoso and Alex Christison, who used the Oculus Rift to watch back-to-back movies and 360° titles for a grand total of 50 hours.

Shockingly, most of these people reported experiencing no lingering sickness or issues after their marathons (and here I can’t do more than half an hour on some games). But more importantly, what did their faces look like? How many days did it take the red lines around their eyes and noses to fade? VR face is no joke.

Making VR more comfortable for long-term play is a common conversation, but it raises an interesting point: how long do most of us really spend in VR, anyway?

According to Statistica? About 34 minutes. There’s a bit of a chicken and egg phenomenon here because we don’t know whether average playtimes would increase if headsets were more comfortable, but they don’t necessarily need to be. People who own these headsets are using them often, with many gamers playing every single day. Average video game users only play for six hours a week, meaning each session is likely just an hour long. Not that different from where VR lands.

Obviously, comfort is important and we want to make sure that VR is as comfortable as possible. But most of us will never spend 50 hours in a headset. An hour? It’s just fine.