In an earlier article we wondered whether Daredevil has a harder time keeping his balance because he’s blind. Blindness raises questions about balance because human balance rests on the complex interaction of visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive systems. Any problems Daredevil may have with balance stem from the fact that his balance system has no visual input.
What happens when visual input is present but is inconsistent with the information coming from proprioception and the vestibular sense? This is the problem faced by users of the new virtual reality (VR) systems that are forthcoming from Facebook (Oculus Rift), Sony (Playstation VR) and Valve/HTC (Vive). These VR systems replace visual input from the real world with a 360-degree view of a virtual world. When it works as intended, the results can be thrilling. When the visual input from the virtual world clashes with the information you’re getting from your vestibular and proprioceptive systems about where your body is and how it’s moving, the results can range from nausea to loss of balance.
I’ve written a feature article for Ars Technica about how VR affects balance. The article pays special attention to how VR may affect balance for older users whose balance system may already be compromised but the challenges posed to balance by VR affect users of all ages. If you are interested in VR in general or in how the technology may affect users, please take a look at “Will the new VR gear trip up older gamers?” on the Ars Technica website. And if you enjoy the Info Monkey and are unfamiliar with Ars Technica, check it out. They present a wealth of tech, science and gaming information that is in-depth and interesting without any of the shallow, mindless, click-bait blather you can find elsewhere.
A reader has added a long and detailed comment about how he manipulated visual information to improve his balance in training for rock climbing. It speaks directly to paragraph in the Ars Technica article that points out that experience with VR is likely to mitigate balance problems because it is well known that balance in a balance demanding task improves with practice. The comment is well worth reading.