A new “Health and Safety Notice” included in the recent PlayStation 4 3.15 firmware notes that the PlayStation VR headset is restricted to children aged 12+.
The virtual reality revolution is coming. The Oculus Rift will launch later in March, with the HTC Vive headset to follow in late April. Both PC VR headsets are expected to exceed expectations as far as sales (and excitement), but the requirement of a high-end PC will limit things.
PlayStation VR, on the other hand, has the opportunity to reach millions at a much lower price. The console accessory VR headset is expected later this year, but should be fully unveiled in a matter of months.
However, it now seems like the PlayStation VR may have a more limited audience than originally expected, though likely for good reasons. A new detail was discovered in Sony’s recent PlayStation 4 firmware update – firmware 3.5 – that includes a “Health and Safety Notice” for PlayStation VR, in which a particular bullet point stands out:
“The VR headset is not for use by children under 12.”
Other warnings are also included in the notice, though they are standard for VR. There are warnings regarding nausea, blurred vision, and motion sickness, as well as acknowledging that players should provide plenty of space to play VR . While the age requirement isn’t new, as Oculus is similarly recommending a 13+ audience for the Rift and Gear VR, to see a video game console set a high age requirement is surprising.
The question becomes: why? What exactly about VR deserves an age restriction in the teenage years? The simplest answer would be that the headsets simply might not fit younger children, thus it’s only appropriate to recommend the headsets for heads that will fit them. The straps may not adjust far enough, especially with the PlayStation VR headset, which features a large plastic casing. Or maybe the optics won’t sit right with a child’s eyes.
But the actual reasons for the age restriction are likely much more complicated, and potentially alarming. While Sony hasn’t commented on their newly discovered VR age restriction, Oculus did last year:
“[W]e just felt let’s start at 13, let’s evolve the technology more, let’s build more confidence, in the health and safety side of it. And eventually, one day, we definitely want to have Oculus for kids, especially for all the educational use of this.”
It’s a sad fact, but there’s simply not enough research or evidence to either support or deny virtual reality having a negative impact on developing children. It may seem absurd, considering that children grow up in front of television screens and monitors these days, but VR is an entirely new frontier and that comes with risks. It’s the responsible choice for both Oculus and Sony to set a reasonable age restriction. Valve is likely to follow suit.
All in all, the reality is that it’s unlikely any VR headset-owning parent will go out of their way to prevent their under-12 child from experiencing VR. But, as with any technology, hopefully the warnings will encourage parents to exercise moderation.