Virtual Reality: Ethical Issues, Global Impact, and Impact on your Career

Virtual and Augmented Reality Ethical Issues:

There are a few ethical issues in regard to virtual environments which need to be addressed. These are related to human behavior, motivations, and inappropriate/ uncensored content in open sourced VR worlds. There are also physical and physiological health concerns in regard to the virtual reality experience.

As the researchers point out, there are good reasons to be especially concerned about the influence of virtual reality on the human brain, as opposed to television or non-immersive video games. Concerns have been raised about a possible relationship between virtual reality and desensitization. This refers to virtual reality games in which there are high levels of violence or training exercises for the military in which soldiers engage in simulated combat scenarios which include killing. Desensitization means that the person is no longer affected by extreme acts of behavior such as violence and fails to show empathy or compassion as a result. This has been noticed with gamers, especially those who play first person shooters or role playing games which involve a high degree of immersion. Unlike other forms of media, VR can create a situation in which the user’s entire environment is determined by the creators of the virtual world.

The VR experience can introduce a number of opportunities for new and powerful forms of mental and behavioral manipulation. Virtual Reality is just like any other experience in the real world in the sense that it can hurt people in the same way that real-world situations can affect people in a psychological sense. To avoid an ethical dilemma in regards to VR, it is important to remember:

  1. Experiments using virtual reality should make sure that they do not cause lasting or serious harm to the subject.
  2. Those participating in the experiment should be made aware of possible psychological and physical effects from VR.
  3. Create awareness about the many ways VR can be used for something other than its original intention.
  4. Adopting procedures through policy and law that ensure a user’s privacy and safety is protected and maintained.

Virtual reality is a form of technology that is continuously developing, because of this continuous progression VR may cause some problems that many of us have not encountered before. There will be problems that include poor ergonomics and then there are psychological issues. These issues are moral and ethical concerns that need to be looked upon with these technological advancements. There are physical effects and time constraints. Due to a person’s perception being distorted VR can provide users motion sickness. Some people are affected by this after spending only 30 minutes in a virtual environment whereas others can go several hours before they notice any ill effects. This is also known as cybersickness. These virtual realities and their devices unfortunately take a very long time to create and maintain, and as we should all know, time is money. Wasted time causes many issues within the surface of a company, the products it produces for the customers, the customer service, the research, the future technological advances, and so on. Researchers are attempting to create a balance between hyper-realism and production time but the equation is yet to be solved at this point.

How Virtual Reality Will Impact Businesses In The Next Five Years:

  1. We’ll Experience Our Reality Through Virtual Reality
    • AR and VR will be tools for our future to capture knowledge. The educational world and the way we will learn will dramatically change 5 years from now. VR will truly become an essential tool in the workforce. These technology-driven tools are getting better, more realistic, and are already accepted by those entering the workforce.
  2. Prototyping Will Go to the Next Level
    • VR and AR will allow companies to present their project in newer and better ways than ever before. These virtual prototypes will allow the customers, builders, and developers to have better planned designs and models which will lead to a higher rate of sales and a higher quality of goods sold as every minute detail of a project can be shown. Decision makers and end-users will be able to provide better and more valuable feedback early in the game. This will allow business to focus and spread out their timing more throughout the company and waste less money holistically.
  3. Certain Niche Markets Will Be Impacted
    • These devices will provide happiness and ease to travel around the world without flying or spending thousands of dollars to enjoy simple moments. However, these devices will be extremely expensive to purchase and most likely maintain.
  4. Advanced VR Will Become the Social Laboratory of the Elite
    • VR and AR will be simulating business strategies, assist government policies, and so on. These choices and devices are supported by billions of dollars in capital which makes this an audience and a market to dive into rather than to ignore.

VR and AR on a Global Level:

The insurgence of VR and AR has massive global implications. International Data Corporation (IDC) has projected that in just four years, the VR/AR market will reach sales up to $162 billion. More and more 360o videos have been showing up on video channels such as Youtube, subtly reminding viewers that they could be getting a better experience via a VR device. VR and AR are by no means constrained to video gaming. As mentioned in a previous blog post, VR is already having an impact in the medical industry, education, social media, and business. Surgeons could be using VR for surgeries, and patients for therapy sessions. Education could become much cheaper if entire courses begin to be taught by one teacher embedded into an immersive software. Social media platforms will become entirely new realities with virtual social spaces and avatars. Mark Zuckerberg has created a plan to do something like this in combining Facebook and VR.

So VR is not restricted to gaming; gaming is simply the gateway to people’s interest in VR. But the “gods of technology” seem to have greater plans for Augmented Reality. Virtual Reality will forever be an experience that takes us away from the present and physical world around us. AR, however, could potentially become an everyday part of our lives.


Having trouble believing this could be a close representation of our future? Samsung has already put in patents for smart contact lenses. Get ready world!

8 thoughts on “Virtual Reality: Ethical Issues, Global Impact, and Impact on your Career

  1. Dean Falcone

    As this semester continues, I hear more and more about virtual reality. This may be due to Playstation’s newest attempt at it and the growing popularity it has or because it is really the wave of the future. Whatever the cause is, I know before the start of this year I was not giving the topic too much thought and recognition. I am familiar with augmented reality and what it deals with. Most of the blog posts I have seen talk about virtual reality, indicating that we could be close to perfecting it.
    I have never personally had an experience with virtual reality. The closest I have come was with the rides at Disneyworld. I understand that these are not what is typically talked about in the discussions for virtual reality or augmented reality, but considering that some of these rides are more than 10 years old is impressive. The progress we can make with them mmakes one think how another 10 years can help further this technology.
    Using VR in the workforce was not something I think of when dealing with VR or AR. I associate these sorts of things with fun and leisure. I can definitely see the advantages of doing so, I just think of gaming and fields like that more. One of the big benefits I can see is in the world of architecture. Being able to see what a model will look like exactly before even seeing the work site can help save a lot of time and effort. Also, architects will be able to change and reimagine what their designs should look like easier when it is standing fully in front of them at the size they desire. The only disruptive aspects I can foresee are when it comes to completely integrating a VR based technology or something similar into the workplace. I feel that the most time consuming part will be teaching everyone how to use said technology. The training will not only take time away from other daily tasks, it will cost the company money to bring in people to train the employees and there will be a loss of money from the time being allocated to that instead of their work.
    Once there are fully functional VR technologies into work settings, I believe they will be very helpful. Just as the reasons detailed in the article, there are many practical uses. Traveling great distances will not limit managers and perspective customers, healthcare and military training can be more hands on without being in person.
    After reading this article, I thought how not only will the workplace be benefited once VR/AR technologies are finalize, but how the classrooms will be as well. Instead of having classes that are only offered online, classes could be VR based. Especially when the classes are for physical therapists, nurses and other classes where it is crucial to see exactly what the professor is doing and talking about. Students can also benefit because they will be able to tour college campuses without stepping foot on one. This will save families time and money in the college process.

  2. Sahnera Spruill

    The article or video never specifically state exactly what it is, but the technology shown in the video is similar to Google Glass and HoloLens which are some more familiar forms of virtual or augmented reality. Google glass is an optical head mounted display designed to look like eyeglasses, with a mission to create a computer that can be used anywhere and hands free. It displays information right where the eyes can see. HoloLens is a holographic computer that enables its user to interact with high definition holograms in real space and time. It’s also eyewear but instead of being the shape of sunglasses, it is a sleek headset with transparent lenses. You can see the world around you, but the world is transformed with 3D objects floating in midair, virtual screens on the wall and virtual characters running amok. My younger brother actually got a HoloLens over the summer. He’s let me try it numerous times and it is amazing. I don’t think the HoloLens qualifies as mixed reality because it just has the same effect of a 3D movie because the objects are transparent and somewhat surreal.
    In regards to the ethical issues, desensitization is a big issue. Before this new form of gaming, playing shooting games on average gaming systems such as Xbox already had an evident impact on the empathy and compassion of a gamer. In real life, men who have seen the scary things that happen in wars come home traumatized, violent, and often suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Going to see a 3-d horror movie in the theatres may even be traumatizing. After a scary movie I often sleep in my younger sister’s room for the night. There is no doubt that putting a person directly in the mix of realistic violence can subliminally take a toll on their psych. Another issue stated had more to do with a physical issue. Motion sickness or cyber sickness in which experts have not learned too much about yet.
    The portion of this article in which Spencer explains how virtual reality will impact businesses and the point about how prototyping will go to the next level was extremely interesting. He states how virtual and augmented reality will allow companies to present their project in newer and better ways than before. While prototyping a product, most people cannot get a porotype to really embody what their vision is. VR and AR will allow for their imaginations to have no limits.
    The video at the end of the article is somewhat disturbing. The beginning is cool, watching the guy play a skydiving video game and making his breakfast with the help of his sight. It the part of the video where he and a woman were on a date is what disturbed me. It seems as if every aspect of life relied on this “sight”. I hope it never gets this serious, posting on Instagram, ordering driving, and even connecting to a human all relied on their contact lenses

  3. Steven Chilletti

    This article was interesting since it talks not just about the benefits of virtual reality, but also about some of the problems with it as well. The article starts off by talking about how certain ethical issues need to be discussed about virtual reality, and the author links an article which also explains these issues. When I read the article linked, it was interesting to see some of the issues that were brought up. One of these issues that was brought up was about privacy in the virtual world, and if there should be limits to that privacy. While they do give good reasons for talking about it, like the example of the play that concerns virtual reality and harming children, I do think that it is important to keep the privacy of everyone, which can unfortunately include people whose thoughts go against society as a whole. One of the major points that the author of the original article talks about is the idea of virtual reality causing desensitization. This issue has been brought up since the first violent video games were released, and there were always campaigns to get them banned. While playing violent video games for long periods of time can affect some people, the idea that virtual violence can lead to harmful effects does not make much sense to me. In the case of virtual reality, the increase immersion might have more of an affect on people, but the basic idea of it being a virtual game is the same. At this point in time, VR is not advanced enough to accurately show the types of violence people worry about, but in the future there might be more issues. One of the issues talked about that makes sense to me is the problem with motion sickness, since there have been people who become dizzy or sick from wearing the headset for too long. I also agree with the author in saying that virtual reality will become more popular and profitable in the future, since the designs of the headsets and the motion capturing equipment have become more accessible to people. Since it is so popular now, VR will most likely be expanded by game companies, as well as other corporations who can use VR for other things besides video games.

  4. kaitlyn healy

    Spencer Ross’s article, “Virtual Reality: Ethical Issues, Global Impact, and Impact on your Career” is a realistic look on a virtual topic. The article tackles how virtual reality and augmented reality will impact and does impact our society and globally. The difference between virtual and augmented is that virtual is an artificial computer simulation and augmented is the use of actual reality and it uses computer enhancements on top of reality. Both of these technologies are being used and implemented in our world but there are problems that we are finding associated with them. The article talks about physiological impacts and I agree that the virtual sense of reality puts people in situations that cause anxiety and like the article says desensitization can occur when dealing with things like games and war like scenarios. People play these virtual games and kill people and then they become immune to the fact that a life was lost. This is not good especially when we are dealing with kids because we are putting our kids in a situation that mentally they probably aren’t ready to handle. If we look at it this way, the military prepares soldiers for battle and mentally prepares them for what they might encounter. Most of these men come home from war and go through post-traumatic stress syndrome and that is because they stress of what they have been through was a lot for them to handle. Can you only imagine what a young kid goes through when they play these virtual games and are constantly killing people? They say that the kids that were involved in the Columbine shootings played video games that involved being a shooter, maybe we are desensitizing our youth and not cherishing life.
    The article states that people have to remember that there are things that virtual reality are good for and we need to have policies and laws that protect people. We also need to keep in mind that virtual reality can cause physical and psychological affects and we need to keep that in mind when we try it.
    This article jumped around from topic to topic but one that is worth mentioning is the fact that people can actually get physically sick from virtual reality , it is a form of motion sickness called cyber sickness. There are many people who are prown to this and it is something that should cause people to take caution when using virtual reality.
    With all the side effects there are good things that virtual and augmented reality bring to us. We have to focus on the fact that this type of technology is not only used for games but it can be a big part of advancing education. Can you imagine teaching a class and being able to show your students firsthand what things look like and visit places that student would never be able to visit. Another field that will benefit from virtual reality is medicine. Surgeons can practice procedures without touching a patient.

    There is such good that can come from this technology we have to take the good with the bad but hopefully it can grow to its potential and help society. Right now Facebook is looking to incorporate virtual reality and Samsung wants to make virtual contacts so as you can see this is going to be the norm soon.

  5. Joseph Padula

    Every time I see articles about Virtual Reality I either think of a sci-fi movie about the future or the recent PlayStation VR gaming systems they have. PlayStation’s new VR headset and controls allows the individual to psychologically feel like they are on a roller coaster or running through a forest. This technology is amazing and I cannot wait to see what it can bring to us in the near future! However, just like everything brand new and innovative there are always going to be unseen consequences or issues with the technology. This response written by Spencer Ross does a great job highlighting key issues and benefits this tech will bring to our society.

    Social media has already shown us some positives of VR technology due to the fact that in Japan there is a company using VR to allow individuals to overcome their fear of heights by rescuing a kitten at the end of a beam leaning of a skyscraper hundreds of feet off the ground. As you watch the video you see how terrified the people are simply walking across a board on the ground in a testing room because of the effects VR has on the human brain. These individuals’ five senses especially one’s eyes can play tricks on you, and that is exactly what VR does in a sense. Already having a fear of heights triggers one brain to react every time they think they are in a high place. The incentive here is to safe the kitten from falling off the edge, so by allowing one’s self to put their fears aside to rescue the stranded kitten allows these people to finally overcome their fear.

    Consequently, as Spencer pointed out, there can be also other negative psychological effects that VR has on an individual. An example of this would be virtual reality desensitizing gamers and from violence and other negative behaviors. Since the military uses virtual reality to desensitize their soldiers from killing so they have instinctive reactions in a situation this could also be true for civilians playing a game. By constantly playing a violent VR video game could allow the person to no longer see killing or death as impactful as someone who has never seen it. Leading that person to committed crime or, even worse, a murder because they no longer see the issue with doing it. This could lead to major problems and the developers must keep this in mind when creating games and warnings for the general public.

    Additionally, another ethical issue that must be taken care of is when a game could possibly have a negative psychological effect on people by playing it. Certain VR games may cause an individual to feel sick or become depressed and otherwise would not have had these symptoms if they did not play the game. So the VR creators or the station that these games are going to be played on must keep the gamers aware of the possible side effects that comes along with this virtual worlds. These are some key issues that must be handled when these games become more prominent on the market.

  6. Robby Hazel

    It is safe to say, the world of technology is rounding another corner in its constant evolution. This change however happens to be rather pivotal and unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. I’m not talking about the next generation of gaming systems, I’m referring to the imminent arrival of groundbreaking technology, virtual and augmented reality. Virtual and augmented reality immediately immerses the user in a new world that is powered by lifelike graphics and artificial intelligence, making the experience feel real. These new technologies have usages that stretch far beyond the scope of gaming, but are accompanied by several notable liabilities that simply are not found anywhere else. Aside from the lifelike gaming usages that such a technology provides, Spencer Ross notes in his blog post, Virtual Reality: Ethical Issues, Global Impact, and Impact on your Career, that virtual and augmented reality technologies have the power to impact the business world just as much as it will impact the video gaming arena. For better or worse, the innovations made in virtual reality programs are coming to the forefront of modern day technology and will have many more impacts on the world than most people originally assume.

    The most obvious negative impact that virtual and augmented reality will bring us is the continued desensitization to violence that has plagued our culture since the days of the PlayStation 1. For a couple decades now, the content of game series’ such as Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and Medal of Honor have been chocked full of graphic violence, crude language, and sexual undertones. Professionals in the mental health field have long argued that the continued play of games such as the ones previously listed causes serious desensitization in regards to harming others, openly using crude language as if it were socially acceptable, and general disrespect to females. Now, I am certainly not shaming these games, because I personally played them all the time, but there is scientific evidence that points to the validation of this opinion. Not to mention, seemingly every mass shooter in recent memory was noted as having a history of playing such games obsessively. As pointed out in the blog post, the increased intensity of virtual reality gaming from console gaming will likely bring a substantial increase in such desensitization. The difference between simply playing a game such as call of duty on a television screen, and actually putting on a virtual reality helmet, feeling apart of the battle, is immense. This new technology might not end up having as much of an impact on desensitization as many assume, but it certainly will to at least some degree, pushing the lines of immorality even further back.

    Virtual reality technology will also be very applicable to the business world. Businesses will now be able to simulate business decisions, greatly limiting one’s chances of making a poor, and dire, decision for a business. Completely new industries and product lines will likely develop and governments will also be able test the effects of their new policies before they are implemented. The possibilities for this new technology are seemingly endless and I personally cannot wait to use it.

  7. Robert Luba

    I do not think that virtual reality will have a substantial effect on the will of individuals to commit violent acts in reality. While I do submit that witnessing events equivocal to reality in a virtual setting may cause partial desensitization to acts committed outside of virtual reality. In almost all mainstream games, killing is a mechanic. Just as well, many of these games are played through the perspective of the avatar. This, again referenced in the article, is where immersion into a game can occur. The key, I’m sure most developers look for, is to attempt to eliminate the space between gamer and screen, allowing the gamer to begin to live vicariously through their protagonist in the game. After years and years of doing this, many companies have become very successful in creating believable worlds that millions become lost in for hundreds of hours of their time. I spent nearly five hundred hours exploring the vast landscape and underground of Skyrim in the Elder Scrolls Five: Skyrim. As millions of other people who bought the game know, it is a violent, bloody game centered around exploration, looting, and all the other aspects of an adventurer’s life in a medieval fantasy setting. While I surely killed thousands of people and beasts alike during those five hundred hours, I feel no need to brandish a short sword and pillage my own neighborhood.
    To be clear the market for senselessly violent video games is all but nonexistent, this is evident by the bomb in sales for recent title Hatred. This game gave the player the sole instruction to kill as much as possible without dying. The new title’s sales tanked, it presented nothing worth playing and failed for it. Most violent games have some method to their madness. Games today, generally, follow a narrative or grasping story which guides the player through beautiful or otherwise stunning set pieces, the killing being the challenge presented that makes the playtime interesting and intuitive. Without some sort of challenge, games would be hardly games at all.
    Many games supplement or entirely replace violence with puzzles or other subjects of great thought that present an equal or greater challenge to the player. It is interesting to mention that many merge the two, violence and puzzles, to create exciting scripts as well as make the player think.
    The point I might finalize my argument with is that killing is never usually the point of the game, it is just a block in the road that many find enjoyment in passing. As with anything that takes effort to pass, there is a sense of success or accomplishment when it is achieved. In fact, many developers, realizing the dilemma, have based video games with intense violence around the question of whether or not the player understands what they are doing. Spec Ops: The Line, follows a small group of soldiers in a ravaged Dubai as they unintentionally commit horrific crimes of war and, in the end, blames the player for their inability to turn back and see ‘the line’ they cross by continuing their montage of death. Another game, Dishonored, carries strong tones of the abuse of power, when you are presented with a fantastic power to kill and are allowed to do so or spare at your own discretion. The game ends in one of two ways where you either give the impression on your daughter that a peaceful path is preferable to a violent one or vice versa. Games have introduced the idea of morality and attention to action, and it has proven successful. I do not see why that would change with the introduction of a head set.

  8. Hakeem Marshall

    Virtual Reality is something that is infinitely interesting to me. It is one of those things that really has the potential to change the world in a real and meaningful sense. Virtual Reality, once it leads itself out of seeming like an expensive gimmick, will begin to play a large role in our lives in a number of ways. Education will have been completely revolutionized, as would medicine. The state of our mental health will also change in a number of unique ways. Being able to enter a new reality, outside of our own, where all our problems do not exist. I feel as though simply saying that will be huge is just treating you like a fool. The implications of a “virtual reality” jump out and scream at you and I will be spending the bulk of my response to this article talking about these implication and the role they will have in our futures.

    The first and, in my opinion, biggest implication of virtual reality is its effect on education. Engagement is the greatest tool in teaching. If you are truly interested or engaged in a topic, you will be more receptive because, if nothing else, you want to learn the topic, so you will try harder to gain understanding of whatever it is your learning. Education and, in this case, a good teacher, can be wonderful because it can put you in an entirely different mindset and get you to accept an entirely different mindset. Virtual Reality would take the potential immersion from a topic to a whole new level. Nothing quite the potential to inspire than seeing the actual effects of it in real time and while you will not see the, for example, destruction that a chemical reaction creates, you can get a model of that shown to you. We want to inspire the youth and people in general and get them to love education, this is the way to do it. In addition, virtual reality environments are risk free which that experimentation will be taken to the next level. This will create a more inquisitive mind as well as have lessons learned in these programs really stick with the students. However, in spite of all the positive effects of education and VR, not all is well. For one, VR is expensive. It is too expensive to have any sort of large scale investment in VR and education so that is an immediate barrier to entry. Until this gets worked out as well various bugs in the programming that may make the education acquired inadequate are solved VR will never be the groundbreaking, penetrating tech it could be.

    Subsequently, the effects of VR on our mental health are I feel an understated implication of the technology. Part of the reason I think this is is that VR is, in the public sphere, are thought of as, just a toy. Video games are thought of as just a thing to distract the kids so mom and dad can have some time to themselves. However, to minimize VR into just a toy is both an incredibly pigeon holed way of viewing things, but also wrong. VR has the potential to solve or work quite a ways to finding the solution to many of the mental health ills our society is faced with. Imagine living an incredibly stressed life, you work long hours with no break or hope of long term sleep or rest. Life seems like an unending struggle with no end in sight. Now, imagine being this stressed out, husk of a man, being transported to a beautiful land where no gets hurts, no one is pain and everything is peaceful. Even if for a few minutes a day you could do that, your entire body and mind could reach a peace that could honestly save lives. The Oculus Rift, HTC VIVE and other virtual reality technologies have a direct effect on the psyche and, by extension, a direct influence on your thoughts and opinions. Your view of the world would be completely shaped by it. That has incredible potential for both good and evil. Imagine being able to pay a fee to an organization and being able to enter into a machine and plug out of your existence and into a new one where everything is great and nothing bad. Would we ever want leave? Should we want to leave? VR opens up a new debate about reality and what it means to really live and be a human. Is it even worth it? Should we just leave our realities and embrace a new and potentially better world? These are all implication of VR and its effect. VR will become bigger and more prominent and these questions will become more into the mainstream and we have to face it eventually and we should for our own sanity. VR is amazing technology and has bold implication for our futures as humans.


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