3D Artist

Can VR solve 3D artist’s health issues?

News & Features
Hiroshi Kuribayashi

Hiroshi Kuribayashi of MARUI on why working in VR may be better for a 3D artist’s physical health

According to research, working at a desk can cause health problems. An online survey focused on designers found that 15% had back problems, 15% headaches and migraines, 13% eye problems and 11% repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Furthermore, 6% reported obesity and 5% circulation problems.

These problems are caused by the work environment. Currently, 3D designers work with a mouse and keyboard while sitting on a chair most of the day. If you are a 3D designer, you may have experienced at least one of these health problems.

However, this could all be solved with the newest VR technology.

When you work in VR, you use controllers with the full range of motion to design for 3DCG instead of the limited motion of a mouse.

Furthermore, the main cause of back problems, headaches and migraines is sitting on a chair for long periods of time with same posture. If you work in VR, not only you are free to stand, sit, or lie down while working, but also use your whole body.

Many people think VR is bad for eyes because the display is constantly right in front of your eyes. However, scientific studies have long debunked the myth that looking at computer screens up close
(or performing any kind of “near work” like reading or embroidery) causes damage to the eyes. But even if you’re far-sighted or still worried about damaging your eyes, you can relax. When using a VR headset, even though the screen is physically very close to your face the lenses in front of your eyes optically change the distance at which our eyes focus (called “accommodation”) well to beyond one meter. That’s farther than a normal computer screen or smartphone – or book for that matter. So, VR may actually be more convenient for the eye than any other modern work environment.

VR can help with serious health problems as well. If you are a 3D designer, you may have experienced tendonitis. At the worst case, it turns out to be carpal tunnel syndrome, and you can’t go back to work anymore. Paul van der Laan, a 3D artist from the Netherlands, is suffering from work-related repetitive strain injury. At first, he tried to cure his condition by resting and having several medical treatments performed but these approaches didn’t work. He also tried to adjust his work environment by using a Wacom tablet, eye tracking camera, headtracking camera, voice recognition, footmouses, as well as various ergonomic mouses. However, none of them worked for him. Only new VR technology and MARUI could support him in getting back to 3D modelling again.

“With the 2017 summer sale of the oculus rift I became a happy owner of a VR device and as such I could try out the MARUI software. This seems to be a working combination as well for me to do professional work again in the field of 3D art. Using VR, a lot less actions with my hands are necessary to navigate around the scene. Also I think that because you are using your hands in mid-air and more freely compared to a traditional mouse and keyboard, I get much less problems with my hands.” – Paul van der Laan.

Not only could VR solve serious health problems but it could also help create a more comfortable workplace. For many tasks in 3D design work, the computer screen must be divided up to between several views and editors. Many designers consider this to be inconvenient because the windows necessarily become small and occlude each other. In VR, you can place windows anywhere around you for quick and easy access, giving you 360 degrees of workplace real estate.
On top of that, you can choose your virtual office by setting a 360-degree panorama picture of your favourite place as background. Working on the beach or on snowy mountain peaks definitely beats your current open-plan office.

And of course, seeing 3D objects in 3D and interacting with them 3-dimensionally is more intuitively more efficient than pushing a mouse pointer over a 2D orthographic image.

But not only the artist can profit from the benefits of VR, but the supervisors and the company itself as well.

3D design in VR protects you from various health problems, allows you to create a more comfortable work environment and reducing production cost by increasing the artists performance and streamlining the review process between supervisor and client.

MARUI-PlugIn compared current 2D interfaces and a VR UIs for common 3D design tasks. The VR interface reduced 20% of animation and 30% of modelling work time. Considering the average salary, this can sum up to about $800 per month per designer.

In addition, by using the VR interface for previsualisation and review (between client and studio) and checking tool (between supervisor/director and designer), studios can further improve their efficiency and avoid unnecessary review cycles.

Health problems of employees can cause serious financial damages to a company. In many cases, accumulated fatigues and pressures cause health problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Especially senior designers who are most experienced in 3D design have the highest risks of health problems. Even temporary health problems of key employees can result in large negative impacts for a company in missed deadlines. Studios who avoid to start using VR interfaces because they fear a decrease of productivity during the learning period may suffer in the long run from increased health costs and missed work days. The key here is to keep the switching cost low by adding a VR interface to the currently used software in the form of a plug-in such as MARUI for Maya instead of re-training artists on completely VR-exclusive programs.

VR technology enables 3D design professionals to achieve a healthier, more enjoyable, and more productive working environment. With the help of VR plug-ins for professional 3D design software such as MARUI for Maya, the solution is now within the reach of every artist and 3DCG studio.