VR motion sickness – what is it, how can you reduce it?

In achieving believable virtual reality, developers have been perfecting and fine tuning the technology to deliver as much realism as possible to the experience. The biggest challenge that continues to face VR right now, despite all of the advances made in the technology, is how it can sometimes cause users to feel sick and nauseous. This feeling has been deemed VR motion sickness, the so-called grim reaper of VR. Considered to be the single-most detrimental factor that can ruin virtual reality, it’s something that consumers will be mindful about, because as we know, it can altogether prevent us from ever stepping foot into virtual reality again.

Not everyone is affected by VR motion sickness, and it’s really hard to know if you will have a problem with it until you give it a try. Just because you get regular motion sickness easily, doesn’t mean you will have a problem with VR motion sickness. The same goes for someone who has no motions issues, you might find that you do happen to have VR motion sickness. In other words, your mileage will vary.

Similar to traditional motion sickness, such as riding in a car or boat, VR Motion Sickness slowly creeps up after some time spent in the VR world – it’s not something that springs up right from the get-go. Luckily though, there are ways to avoid (or minimize) the effects of VR Motion Sickness. While nothing is scientifically proven to cure you from the nauseating effects, we hope that these quick tips can help you out to some degree.

Minimize your playing time

Being prone to VR motion sickness isn’t fun, but the best tip we can give to those in this predicament is to minimize their playing time in VR. That means not attempting to play for consecutive hours. Rather, you’ll want to break it up into short bursts, say 10 to 20 minutes at a time, just to ease the pressure that’s causing your mind to go awry due to the senses being overloaded. Shorter exposure to VR means that your senses won’t be jarred, to the point of being overwhelmed, and subsequently stirring up the VR motion sickness.

Upgrade the hardware

There are a plethora of reasons why VR motion sickness occurs. One of them, in particular, relates to the hardware you’re using, which covers both console, PC, and mobile VR experiences. Inferior spec’d systems will deliver slower VR performances, which in turn results in choppier frame rates – a delivering blow to any VR experience. For PCs, it means leveraging better GPUs that can accommodate the crushing graphics processing that VR requires. Looking at Sony’s PlayStation VR, too, there is a noticeable difference in VR sickness between the standard and Pro versions of the PS4. And finally, your smartphone just might not be equipped in handling the experience – so it’s best to move towards a better spec’d phone.

Don’t rush through the setup

Most people can’t wait for the anticipation of being thrown into the VR space, so they sometimes rush through the initial setup process. While they might be able to somehow get through the setup process and finally jump into a game/experience, the intended rush can subsequently diminish the optimizations that are necessary in tracking a user in the real-world. For example, maybe the tracking sensors used by the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift aren’t angled or positioned strategically to ensure the utmost coverage – or in the case of the PSVR, the tracking camera might not be framed properly.

Rerun the initial setup process again

In our experience, we noticed some improvement to the VR experience when we opted to rerun the setup process – thus, minimizing VR sickness. Maybe after a while, the sensors and tracking controllers become miscalibrated, which of course can produce some oddities in the VR world. For example, the plane shift that causes a quick, momentary movement in the VR world you’re in, but you mind knows you’re just standing still and not moving at all. After rerunning the setup procedure on both the Oculus Rift and PSVR, we noticed improved tracking by the two systems, which again helps to combat against VR motion sickness.

Adjustments to the headset and display

Another way to minimize VR motion sickness pertains to how the headset is mounted over your face, just because a proper fit goes a long way in this case. Headsets like those with the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PSVR, allow users to adjust a variety of parameters to ensure they’re snug over your head. You’ll want to adjust things like the straps, the distance between the displays, and even clean off any smudges on the lenses that can soften the look in the VR world. While this tip works well for those VR systems, it’s a little bit tougher with mobile VR headsets, just because most of the components are static.

Stop, give yourself a break

Our first tip was to minimize your playing time, but it’s quite obvious that it’s necessary to stop completely once you start to feel sick – even if it’s a small inkling. You’ll do yourself a favor by stopping immediately after you begin to feel something’s amiss. Trust us, it’ll go a long way because once you pass that threshold, there’s no going back. And hey, it’s better to stop than to feel sick to your stomach for an indefinite period of time.

Play short sessions, but frequently

Playing shorter sessions is something we highly recommended above, but we also say one way to reduce VR is to play frequently. That means using VR for short play sessions multiple times a week or more. Why is that? While this isn’t true for everyone, many users have reported that the more often they play VR, the more their body gets used to it. In some cases, that means you’ll become more hardened to the affects of VR sickness or might not even experience them at all.

Have any other tips for avoiding or reducing VR sickness? Let us know your tips and suggestions in the comments below!

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