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Users in a virtual reality chat on Wednesday watched helplessly as one member of the chat endured a seizure while using full-body tracking.
In the virtual chat room—captured by YouTuber Rogue Shadow VR—people using pop culture avatars including Morty, Sonic, Knuckles, a dude in a diaper, and a trippy Wendy were all interacting when one black and red robot fell to the ground and began twitching.
While some participants continued to joke around, many in the chat room rushed to the aid of the black and red robot, although no one was quite sure how to help him without knowing his name or even where he lives. Eventually, the seizing user recovered and is now OK.
This isn’t a new plotline from Black Mirror, although it sounds like science fiction come to life. As one Reddit user pointed out, we’re talking about a “medical diagnosis over virtual reality made by observing an avatar in a digital projection.”
As VR devices become more widely accessible, the probability that users might witness someone suffer a real medical emergency in the digital world increases as well.
“There was nothing we could do,” Rogue said in his video. “We didn’t even know what part of the planet this person lived on, and all we could do was just observe.”
Rogue said the person who suffered the seizure told him that it was a tonic-clonic seizure, which causes convulsions and loss of consciousness, but it’s not clear what caused it.
there’s a VRChat clip where someone has a seizure and everyone realizes what’s going on because there’s full-body tracking and they monitor him to make sure he’s okay and i think we’ve gone too deep already— danny (@dsemumi) January 19, 2018
This is one of the strangest things I've ever seen; FYI the guy's OK. Crazy to see/hear avatars responding to medical crisis. SEIZURE in VIRTUAL REALITY with FULL BODY TRACKING [ VRChat ] https://t.co/2xbf6ODAAS via @YouTube #VRChat #TheFuture— lolita shatter (@shatterlo) January 19, 2018
Virtual reality companies like Freefly VR warn that those who have ever had lived with symptoms of epilepsy such as severe dizziness, blackouts, seizures, or loss of awareness, should see a doctor before putting on a VR headset.
“The content viewed through the Freefly VR may include flashing images and repetitive sequences which, for a small portion of people, could cause seizures, even in those who have never experienced seizures in the past,” the company’s website warns.
One Reddit user suggested the best thing VR users can do if they witness someone have a seizure online would be to monitor the episode, attempt to call an ambulance if it lasts longer than five minutes, and at the very least inform the seizing user that he experienced an episode once it has finished.
Even if you’ve never had a seizure before, VR companies recommend users take a 15-minute break every 10 minutes to reduce the possibility that your body has a negative reaction to the game.
Tess Cagle is a reporter who focuses on politics, lifestyle, and streaming entertainment. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Texas Monthly, the Austin American-Statesman, Damn Joan, and Community Impact Newspaper. She’s also a portrait, events, and live music photographer in Central Texas.