Filmmaker Derek Westerman seemed to think that the absence of an official Guinness record for “longest amount of time spent in virtual reality” was reason enough to attempt one.
His plan? To strap on a VR headset and live inside a virtual world for 25 hours straight. That’s about 24.75 hours more than most people wear a VR headset for.
Prior to starting the record attempt, which he filmed in Los Angeles and posted this week on YouTube (a heavily edited version, thankfully), Westerman asks a VR expert what’s the worst that can happen to him. “Seizures, vomiting, fatigue, eye damage,” the expert says nonchalantly.
The headset of choice for the record-breaking effort was the $800 HTC Vive, a wise decision as this particular bit of kit lets you actually move about the room as you explore your virtual world. Any other headset and Westerman could’ve added DVT to that list of possible effects.
The attempt begins….
Worryingly, just half hour in, the wannabe record breaker says he’s feeling “extremely bored.” However, he soon discovers that “making little art projects” helps the time pass faster.
He’s doing this using the Vive’s hand controllers and the painting app Tilt Brush, software that he plays around with for the entire 25 hours.
“Guinness has a whole set of rules and regulations, one of those being ‘one game only the whole time,'” he told Road to VR. “I wanted to pick something that gave me the most freedom, and painting in 3D space for 25 hours seemed like the best bet.”
With 19 hours to go, Westerman says he need to pee. But with the headset’s cord preventing him from scurrying off to the bathroom, the bucket steps in to prevent a nasty accident that would’ve surely brought the entire record attempt to a shuddering, and rather messy, halt.
Another break comes after 16 hours as one of his assistants feeds him a slice of pizza. At 3 in the morning, and with another 15 hours still to go, Westerman says, “I don’t feel good.” It’s not clear if it’s the pizza or the effects of 10 hours in a virtual world that’s making him feel queasy, but he soldiers on regardless.
With eight hours remaining, he starts looking decidedly unwell as he writhes around awkwardly in his chair. The bucket – clearly an essential piece of kit for extremely long VR sessions – is called upon again, this time providing Westerman with a place to vomit.
In the closing moments, he says he’s “freaking out a little bit,” though maybe that’s what happens when you use Tilt Brush non-stop for 25 hours. We also need to remember he’s missed a whole night’s sleep.
Westerman eventually crosses the finishing line, tired but triumphant. Commenting on the experience, the proud record holder said, “To go into VR during the day and come out the next day, my brain was tricked to sort of view the room itself as VR and it felt strange, it felt uncanny, and I’m still trying to process it.”
With some people feeling nauseous after just a few minutes in VR, Westerman’s marathon session was some feat, though his apparent distress toward the end suggests it’s a record he won’t wish to reclaim once someone, inevitably, takes it away from him.