How to reduce motion sickness in virtual reality

Today I’ll talk about another one of the most frequently asked questions on reddit: after having talked about about if you have to buy a VR headset, which one you should buy and how to start developing with it, today I’ll talk about how to overcome the motion sickness in VR.

The typical scenario is this one: some smart guy reads a lot about VR and feels the urge to try this awesome technology, so he/she buys a brand new PC, a brand new headset (like Oculus or Vive), starts using it and… he starts feeling bad: nausea, dizziness, headaches. In short, he/she just spent 2000$ to buy some illness… it isn’t that cool!

VR simulation sickness motion sickness
With VR you can start feel really bad due to the simulation sickness, trust me

First of all, what is this and why is this happening? This phenomen is the so-called “simulation-sickness” or “virtual-sickness”: in short, the brain perceives that something that the body senses are perceiving is strange and non-coherent and so it raises its defenses. One of the most common situation is this one: you are playing a seated virtual reality experience, like a FPS where you move in the game using the keyboard or a gamepad. When you move inside the game, your eyes perceive that you’re moving, but your vestibular system in your ears feels that actually you’re seated and still. This is incoherent: since two senses feels different things, the brain thinks that the body has been poisoned and so forces us to vomit to puke the poison out. This situation is the famous “motion sickness” that leads to the unsolved problem of locomotion in VR (well, we of Immotionar have solved it using our ImmotionRoom system, but that’s another story 😉 ) Even the bad FPS or bad response time of a VR application or device can lead to sickness, due to the fact that the brain does see the our senses are working bad.

How can this issue be solved? Well, part of this has to be solved by the hardware producers, making more performant headsets, with more FPS and precise tracking (like Vive room-scale). Some other issues can be mitigated by us developers, designing the games to reduce accelerations and so reducing the risk of inducing sickness to our users. But what can users do? Here are some advices:

  • Start slowly: I know that VR is supercool and when you receive your first headset you just want to play all available games… but this is not safe for your body. Start with some minutes of VR experience. Then take a break and play again. Day by day increment your VR usage;
  • Start with standing still experiences: VR videos, if well made, are the best experiences to start with: they make you used to VR and induce rarely nausea. Still experiences like Oculus Dreamdeck or Henry make you start enjoying super-cool virtual reality without having nausea. When you’ll be used to them, you can start with more complex experiences;

  • Start with your stomach empty: don’t try VR for the first time after a great lunch if you don’t want to puke everything;
  • Start with relaxed environments: relax, take your time and enjoy the greatness of virtual reality. If you’re stressed, you’re more prone to feel bad;
  • Recognize the type of experiences that can make you feel bad: FPS games with gamepad movements are the worst one, so start playing with it when you’re ok with other kind of experiences;
  • If you play FPS-like games, standing still and moving your feet up and down (i.e. walking-in-place) can make you feel less nausea (because your vestibular system will fill that you’re somewhat moving). Otherwise, for non-FPS-like games, standing seated will make you feel more comfortable;
  • Learn to recognize your symptoms: every person is completely different regarding the simulation sickness: someone starts to have nausea, others to have headaches, others to sweat a lot.  So, learn to recognize if you start feeling bad: if this is the case, stop immediately and make a pause. Remember: there is no hurry in getting used to VR.

In any case, don’t worry: these problems tend to vanish with the daily use of VR. First time I tried the Oculus DK2 I was so excited… and I started playing the Tuscany demo. After 2 minutes, my stomach said to me: “Choose: me or the VR”. I chose my stomach… nausea was really bad.

Now I’m a VR developer and I can even use VR after launch, even make experiments with VR and sensors like Kinect. It’s only a matter of time: day after day, your body becomes used to VR, developing the so-called “VR legs” and abandoning the simulation sickness: this happens to 90% of people. Someone has reported that this rule don’t work for him… if this is the case, I’m sorry but present VR is not suitable for you :(.

One last thing I noticed on myself: VR legs have to be kept trained: if you stop using VR for some months, you have to begin the process from scratch!

Hope to have helped you to enjoy more virtual reality. If this is the case, help me with my blog by sharing this article!

Skarredghost

AR/VR developer, startupper, zombie killer. Sometimes I pretend I can blog, but actually I've no idea what I'm doing. I tried to change the world with my startup Immotionar, offering super-awesome full body virtual reality, but now the dream is over. But I've still not waken up...