Psychological Effects of Virtual Reality on Military

Psychological Effects of Virtual Reality on Military

Virtual reality is being used by the military where it has been adopted for training purposes. All three services of the military (air force, navy, and army) apply virtual reality simulations to learn how to respond appropriately in combat situations. The following paper covers the psychological effects that virtual reality has on the users and military personnel learning through it.

Virtual reality simulations mirror a dangerous setting enabling the trainees to interact with the risky situation without the risk of severe injury or death. They re-enact a combat situation like engaging with an enemy in a surrounding that allows them to experience this; however, the simulations eliminate them from the real world exposures. The technique has proven to be cheaper and safer than previous training techniques.  The VR technology, however, comes with particular effects on both the mind and body of the users. The situation is worsened further since the long-term effects of using the simulations are yet to be fully discovered, leaving researchers with little knowledge of the capacity of damage they have on the body. With regard to software engineering ethics and professional practices, the engineers and developers of the VR simulators ought to commit themselves to design, analyze, test and maintain the technology while observing the safety and health of its users ( Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and the Association for Computing Machinery Inc pg 2). The technology should adhere to the welfare, safety, and health of the public.

One effect of applying the VR simulators in military practices is that it results in a loss of spatial awareness.  Users who stay in VR for longer periods, over thirty minutes, tend to forget about the little things which in real life can lead to harm or even death (Sue pg169). Once under the simulation environment, the trainees become unaware of the space around them which can lead to falling or breaking a limb as the military VR simulations are sometimes intense triggering risky responses by the trainees that can put them in harm’s way.

Another effect is feeling dizziness and disorientation. Trainees prone to vertigo and motion sickness are likely to feel disoriented and dizzy while going into the world of VR (Suh pg673). The impact of this effect varies among different persons depending on the trainees’ prior experience with the technology and potential body conditions that might lead to VR triggering the disorientation and dizziness.  Even for the trainees that are not prone to these effects, they may begin experiencing them when they stay in VR for too long.

In addition to this, the VR simulations are also triggers of seizures. The military personnel prone to seizures cannot be trained through the technology as they can invoke a response. Moreover, even the average person that does not suffer from epileptic conditions may start experiencing them as there are reported cases of it happening as far as current experiences are concerned.

Also, the trainees and users of the VR simulators can suffer from Nausea. Cybersickness is known to be linked with the technology (Regan pg 32). Trainees under the simulations experience motion sickness. The mismatch happens as they feel movement in their joints and muscles and also the intricate coils of their inner ears, but they do not feel or see it.  This leads to the trainees developing a sensory conflict that makes them feel queasy.

For the simulators to be effective and safe for military training, it is crucial for developers and VR engineers to come up with alternatives that will solve the safety and health concerns of the technology. The developers ought to approve the technology after they are confident it is safe, has passed proper tests, meets requirements and does not weaken the quality of life. The ultimate effect of the technology should be to the public good.

Adopting VR simulations in military training methods might have several adverse health effects and safety concerns but is still valid on some fronts.  Key among the benefits of using the technology in the military is treating war victims of post-traumatic stress disorder. Soldiers suffering from psychological conditions and battlefield trauma can learn how to handle their symptoms in a safe surrounding. The idea involves exposing the people with PTSD to triggers for their condition aiding them to adjust to them (Albert pg 235) gradually. This eventually decreases their symptoms enabling them to cope with unexpected conditions. The positive outcome of VR use in treating soldiers who have PTSD is contradictory to the health concerns raised in adopting the technology for military purposes.

The solution to the safety and health concerns of using the method in military training is merely regulating the time spent by the trainees under the VR systems. The training programs should incorporate periods of taking breaks away from the VR simulations (Regan pg 35). Most of the psychological conditions and health-related problems arising from using the technology are lessened by simply spending less time around them. This is in regard to the management principle of the code of ethics that requires developers and managers of software and any other related technology to promote an ethical approach in managing the use and maintenance of the technologies. This includes ensuring good management of the projects and effective procedures that encourage quality and minimizing risks. Therefore, limiting trainees’ time under VR simulation serves as a good management practice portraying proper ethical conducts of the military.

VR being a recent technology is yet to be studied and explored in-depth enough to provide substantial knowledge on its effects.However, the little knowledge available has proved safety and health concerns surround the software.  Developers and engineers should consider user’s safety as a top priority while creating the software. Regulating the time spent by the trainees under the VR environment will minimize the triggers leading to the health concerns. This allows the military to continue using the technology while learning from its experiences to improve it.




Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and the Association for Computing Machinery Inc. Software Engineering Code of Ethics. 1999.

Albert, Rizzo. “A virtual reality exposure therapy application for Iraq War military personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder: From training to toy to treatment.” NATO Security through Science Series E Human and Societal Dynamics (2006): 235. document.

Regan, and K. R. Price. “The frequency of occurrence and severity of side-effects of immersion virtual reality.” Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine (1994): 32. Document.

Sue, Cobb. “Virtual reality-induced symptoms and effects (VRISE).” Presence: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments 8.2 ) (1999): 169-186. Document.

Suh, Kil-Soo, and Young Eun Lee. “The effects of virtual reality on consumer learning: an empirical investigation.” Mis Quarterly (2005): 673-697. Document.