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Adrift, one of the launch games for the Oculus Rift.
Adrift, one of the launch games for the Oculus Rift.
Image: Wikipedia

This is why you could get sick when in virtual reality

It’s all to do with the disconnect between what you’re seeing and what your body is experiencing.
Mar 18th 2016, 4:34 PM 14,586 12

IN A FEW WEEKS time, the first batch of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets will be shipped out to those who pre-ordered it.

While it’s still a long way from seeing mass adoption – Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has famously said it will likely take a decade for it to become mainstream – the likes of motion sickness is still a problem, especially if you’re dealing with experiences which involve a lot of motion.

In an interview with MIT Technology Review, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey explained how it wasn’t moving at speed that made people feel sick, but the change in acceleration.

The disconnect of what’s happening in your line of vision and the rest of your senses not feeling the impact is what makes things uncomfortable.

“The issue is constant deceleration and acceleration. It’s actually the duration of that change, rather than the magnitude, that makes people change,” he said. “An instant acceleration from zero to 100, like truly instant, actually makes very few people ill. But slowly ramping it up and then ramping it down is a lot more uncomfortable for a lot of people”.

Things like spinning the horizon line or doing a barrel roll when you’re not actually getting the matching vestibular input (which determine balance); even if you did, that’s something that makes a lot of people feel pretty sick in the real world so there’s no silver bullet to solve things like that.

project cars Source: Project Cars/YouTube

When asked about how they’re making people aware of what games will cause them nausea, Luckey said that most people will be able to use most things on the Oculus Store and will be given comfort ratings.

However, he said that some experiences won’t be suitable for those with nausea saying “we don’t want someone who knows that they’re susceptible [to nausea] to buy things not knowing what they’re getting into”.

Fresh start

While the Oculus Rift is designed for those with high-end PCs, this year will be significant as it will help mark a fresh start from previous attempts.

Even if motion sickness happened infrequently, it would put people off and push progress back a few years. All the major players realise this and have been treating it as a major issue, working with developers to ensure it doesn’t happen.

Sony, which recently announced the price for PlayStation VR, told developers it would not consider games if they dropped below 60 frames per second, a minimum for VR experiences.

Oculus recently announced the 30 games that will be available when it launches at the end of the month. Some of them include Adrift, a first-person survival game set in space, and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, a party game where one person must dismantle a bomb while others give them instructions.

Source: Oculus/YouTube

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Quinton O'Reilly


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