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Oculus founder thinks VR may affect your ability to perceive time passing

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Time is an illusion. VR time doubly so.

Most of the VR experiences we've had thus far can be measured in minutes — a short film here or tech demo there — but that isn't because of technical limits or health concerns. According to Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, you'll likely end up spending more time in the virtual world than you realize, because really, how can you tell the passing of time in the physical plane when your head is trapped in the metaverse?

Speaking with a handful of journalists at GDC this week following a quick game of Oculus launch title EVE: Valkyrie, both Luckey and CCP Games CEO Hilmar Veigar discussed whether there were any technical or game design concerns with regards tohow long someone should wear a headset. The short answer? No concerns at all. Veigar noted that he's seen players spend over 12 hours straight playing an early build of EVE: Valkyrie while using the second-generation Rift development kit — "and then log in again the day after."

It's an admittedly extreme example but one that both used to alleviate any concern of prolonged VR use. And that's when things veered more existential. The full comments are below; they have been edited and condensed for clarity:

Hilmar Veigar: We've already seen players in our alpha [build] with the [Oculus Rift] DK2 spend over 12 hours in one session, and then log in again the day after. So yeah, it doesn't really seem to be a factor... Of course [with EVE: Valkyrie], we wanted to do something that's kind of quick to get into, super [frenetic] and opposite from EVE Online, which has a slower pace and sort of takes decades.

Palmer Luckey: And on the hardware side, there's no fundamental limitation. It's gonna vary by person, but generally speaking, you should be able to use [an Oculus Rift] for long periods of time without any issues. Most of the time that I've put people in for long periods, they don't stop playing because of any problem with the headset. They stopped playing because they needed to go do something in the real world. Twelve hours is great. I haven't been able to do that since... I didn't have a job. Most people aren't going to be doing that.

Veigar: There's also an additional factor I've noticed when I'm playing myself is that time passes differently. You think you've played for 15 minutes and then you go out and it's like, "wait, I spent an hour in there?" There's a concept of, I don't know, VR time.

Luckey: I think a lot of times we rely on our environments to gain perceptual cues around how much time is passing. It's not just a purely internal thing. So when you're in a different virtual world that lacks those cues, it can be pretty tough... You all have been able to be outside and sense what time it is. And you don't know exactly how you're figuring, but you've lived your whole life knowing roughly where the sun is [and] roughly what happens as the day passes. People have a pretty good intuitive sense of, "Oh, I think it's around two o'clock." And they're usually relatively close. In VR, obviously, if you don't have all those cues — because you have the cues of the virtual world [instead] — then you're not going to be able to make those estimates nearly as accurately.