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VR Binge-Viewing World Record Set at 50 Hours

Two massively sleep-deprived and disoriented New Yorkers have landed the first Guinness World Record for a nonstop VR-viewing marathon at 50 hours.

The duo were holed up in a West Village apartment starting at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, April 15, and were allowed 5-minute breaks for every hour of the duration of the attempt under Guinness World Records rules. The men — Alejandro “AJ” Fragoso, 26, and Alex Christison, 37 — hit the 50-hour mark at 10:45 a.m. Monday, having stayed up for more than two days straight over Easter weekend.

Besides the obvious challenge of staying awake, “The hardest part was being somewhat isolated in the virtual environment the entire time,” Christison told Variety after the record was set.

The event was sponsored by CyberLink, which is promoting the VR-playback features of its PowerDVD 17 software. The two men viewed the virtual-reality content on Oculus Rift headsets connected to VR-capable laptops.

It was the first such attempt to set a Guinness World Record for longest VR video content marathon watching, although there’s a separate record for VR video-game marathon set in the U.K. at 25 hours and 24 minutes. The CyberLink team also wanted to beat the unofficial VR-binge mark set by a German gamer last year who was immersed for 48 hours in virtual-reality gaming environments.

During their record-setting session, Fragoso and Christison watched back-to-back VR movies and 360-degree shorts such as “Rogue One: Recon – A Star Wars 360 Experience,” “Kong VR: Destination Skull Island,” and short film “Invasion!” from Baobab Studios. Other VR content, much of which was streamed from YouTube, included the New York Times’ “Great Performers” VR series with Casey Affleck, Don Cheadle and Natalie Portman; “The Walking Dead: Surrounded 360 Experience”; “Arrival VR”; and Netflix’s “Stranger Things” VR short. The lineup also included movies “Superbad,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “Blazing Saddles,” “The Iron Giant” and “Hot Fuzz” viewed in the Oculus Rift headset.

According to Christison, the worst content he viewed during the event was a short “Mortal Kombat” VR film (“It just wasn’t well done,” he said.) Fragoso said his least favorite was “Baby’s Day Out,” the final clip he viewed before the record: “The last shot I saw was of the baby’s butt.” Neither had an immediate opinion on their favorite content. “It’s all kind of a blur right now,” Christison said.

Tech setup for the CyberLink-sponsored VR binge-viewing world record attempt at an apartment in Manhattan’s West Village. Phil Kiene/CYBERLINK

Both Fragoso and Christison live in Brooklyn and have day jobs as app developers (but they’re taking Monday off to catch up on sleep). They did not receive compensation for the stunt, but they had access to unlimited snacks and drinks at the apartment.

The organizers were required to have two witnesses monitoring the two participants at all times (rotating in four-hour shifts) to guarantee the VR bingers didn’t fall asleep. The witnesses used eye-monitoring software and cameras to confirm they didn’t close their eyes for an extended period. An official Guinness judge verified the logs on Monday and observed the final hours of the record.

Fragoso and Christison kept their energy up during the marathon with a steady intake of Red Bull, Starbucks coffee, BLTs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, orange juice and smoothies. They also took brief showers and took breaks outside to get revived at various points.

Fragoso is the same guy who a year ago set the Guinness World Record for TV binge-viewing, with a 94-hour marathon — a record that still stands. That stunt also was sponsored by CyberLink. Meanwhile, Christison worked with CyberLink to capture 360-degree video of the New York City Marathon in November 2016 with a camera rig strapped to his back.

Before and after the VR marathon attempt, Dr. Robert Glatter — an ER physician hired by CyberLink — performed checkups on the two men to ensure they were not suffering any dangerous physical effects. Nausea and vertigo are the two most common symptoms the VR binge-watchers would have been expected to experience, according to Glatter, but he noted that neither of the men had vomited or experienced significant distress.

There are numerous health risks and potential side effects of extended VR exposure. Facebook’s Oculus, in its health and safety guidelines, says those may include: seizures; loss of awareness; eye strain; eye or muscle twitching; involuntary movements; altered, blurred, or double vision or other visual abnormalities; dizziness; disorientation; impaired balance; impaired hand-eye coordination; excessive sweating; increased salivation; nausea; lightheadedness, drowsiness; fatigue; or any symptoms similar to motion sickness.

Oh, and also “discomfort or pain in the head or eyes.”

“Just as with the symptoms people can experience after they disembark a cruise ship, symptoms of virtual reality exposure can persist and become more apparent hours after use,” Oculus says. “These symptoms may put you at an increased risk of injury when engaging in normal activities in the real world.”

Pictured at top: Alejandro “AJ” Fragoso (left) and Alex Christison in the final hour of their VR record-breaking viewing marathon.

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