Novel method to fight virtual reality sickness

Scientists have developed a new method to fight virtual reality (VR) sickness that can be experienced by those who use head-worn VR displays like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Sony PlayStation VR, and Google Cardboard.

It is estimated that over 200 million VR headsets will be sold by 2020.

“But VR sickness, which has symptoms similar to motion sickness, poses a barrier for many users of this immersive technology. People who experience VR sickness will often stop using their headsets, as they feel nauseated and uncomfortable,” said Steven K. Feiner from Columbia University.

Feiner, along with Ajoy Fernandes, subtly changed the user’s field of view (FOV) in response to visually perceived motion as the user virtually traverses an environment while remaining physically stationary.

The team specifically targeted scenarios in which users move in the virtual environment in a way that intentionally differs from how they move in the real world.

In these scenarios, the visual motion cues that users see are at odds with the physical motion cues that they receive from their inner ears’ vestibular system, the cues that provide us with our sense of motion, equilibrium, and spatial orientation.

When the visual and vestibular cues conflict, users can feel quite uncomfortable, even nauseated.

In the study, presented recently at the “IEEE Symposium on 3D User Interfaces” in Greenville, South Carolina, the team divided 30 volunteers into two groups.

One group explored a VR environment without the dynamic FOV restrictors on one day and with the restrictors on a second day. This order was reversed for the second group.

When study participants used the FOV restrictors, they felt more comfortable and stayed in the virtual environment longer than they did without the restrictors.

Feiner and Fernandes now plan to look into how FOV restrictors could help acclimate users to VR experiences.