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Motion Sickness in VR: why it happens and how to manage it

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Motion sickness is a common complaint from people new to virtual reality, and even some experienced users suffer from it at times. But why does it happen and how can it be managed? 

What is motion sickness in VR? 

In simple terms, motion sickness in VR occurs because your eyes see movement, but your body doesn't feel it, much like sea sickness. When what you see in the virtual world doesn't match the motion or lack of motion your body feels, it can confuse your brain and lead to discomfort, nausea, or dizziness. This mismatch between what your eyes and body sense causes motion sickness in virtual reality.

Does everyone feel nauseous in VR?

No, not everyone feels nauseous in virtual reality. Motion sickness in VR varies from person to person, and some individuals may be more susceptible to it than others. Factors such as individual sensitivity, the specific VR experience, and the quality of the VR system can influence whether someone experiences nausea or discomfort.

Many people can use VR without any issues, enjoying immersive experiences without feeling nauseous - also known as having "VR legs". Additionally, advancements in VR technology, including improved display quality, reduced latency, and better design practices, contribute to minimizing motion sickness for a broader audience.

It's worth noting that certain VR experiences, especially those involving rapid or unnatural movements, may have a higher likelihood of causing discomfort. Developers are continuously working to address these challenges and create more comfortable and immersive VR experiences for users. 

Examples of motion VR content at DeoVR 

Most VR videos containing motion are filmed using a VR camera attached to a gimbal or drone. Without something to stablize the video, the footage would be very jerky and difficult to watch. 

Here are some good examples of VR videos involving movement. Watch them and see how you react. The footage is smooth and professional, but if you feel nauseous, you are likely to be susceptible to motion sickness in VR, but don’t worry, we can help fix this. 

Street Dance - Medellín 

The Bridge - Kayaking Along The Ipswich River (360)

Drifting at Crepery Factory FPV Drone experience 3D VR180

Speed flying runs in the Columbia Gorge: Warning: not for beginners!

What are the main causes of motion sickness in VR?

  • Visual-Vestibular Mismatch: In the real world, your eyes and inner ear work together to provide a consistent sense of motion. When you're in VR, the visuals might suggest movement (like walking or turning), but if your body is not physically moving or if there's a discrepancy in the motion, it can lead to sensory conflict, confusion and a feeling of simulator sickness.

  • Virtual Locomotion: Moving within a virtual environment using controls (e.g., joystick) without corresponding physical movement in the real world can cause discomfort. Your eyes see movement, but your body doesn't feel it, creating a sensory mismatch.
  • Latency and Frame Rate Issues: If there is a delay in the display or low frame rates in VR, it can lead to a lag between your head movements and the visual feedback. This lag can contribute to motion sickness as the brain relies on real-time updates for a coherent perception of the virtual environment.
  • Field of View Changes: Sudden changes in the field of view, especially during rapid turns or acceleration in the virtual world, can trigger motion sickness. These abrupt changes may feel unnatural and disrupt the brain's ability to reconcile visual and vestibular cues.
  • Individual Sensitivity: People vary in their susceptibility to motion sickness. Some individuals are more prone to discomfort in VR due to their unique sensitivity to sensory conflicts.

Technological attempts to reduce virtual reality sickness

There are three key ways that VR developers try to reduce VR sickness: 

  • Improving hardware
  • Optimizing software to reduce latency
  • Designing experiences that minimize conflicting sensory cues. 

However, despite these advances in tech, individual differences and the complexity of the human sensory system mean that some people may still experience motion sickness in certain VR scenarios.

Ten methods to minimize VR motion sickness

Reducing motion sickness in virtual worlds involves addressing the sensory conflicts that can occur between visual input and the body's perception of motion. Here are some tips to minimize VR motion sickness:

  1. Choose Comfortable Experiences: Opt for VR videos or VR games with slower movements. Start with experiences that involve less intense motion and gradually progress to more fast-paced ones.
  2. Adjust Settings: Check and adjust the VR system settings for optimal frame rates and low latency to minimize delays between head movements and visual feedback. Eye strain, blurred vision and postural instability are other symptoms to be aware of, so try to minimize these in your VR headset.
  3. Natural Locomotion: Select experiences that incorporate more natural forms of locomotion, such as walking in place or physically moving in the real world to correspond with movements in the virtual environment.
  4. Take Breaks: Take regular breaks during VR sessions to give your body time to adjust and prevent prolonged exposure that may lead to discomfort.
  5. Limit VR Session Length: Start with shorter VR sessions and gradually increase the duration of time spent in the VR environment as your tolerance improves.
  6. Focus on Static Environments: Choose experiences set in static environments or those with minimal camera movements, reducing the chances of sensory conflicts.
  7. Reduce Field of View Changes: Minimize abrupt changes in the field of view, such as rapid turns or accelerations, to help maintain a more comfortable VR experience.
  8. Stay Hydrated and Rested: Ensure you are well-hydrated and rested before using VR, as fatigue and dehydration can contribute to motion sickness.
  9. Use VR Devices with a Higher Refresh Rate: Higher refresh rates in VR headsets can contribute to smoother visuals and may reduce the likelihood of motion sickness.
  10. Watch Good Quality Videos: We recommend the highest framerate possible. 60FPS and above is advised, as 30FPS is more likely to cause nausea. You can browse videos at DeoVR by framerate and resolution, so choose the best quality content. 

Bonus method:

  • Use a fan! Many VR users recommend setting up an electric fan in the corner of the room, and have it set to blow a gentle breeze. This can help ‘anchor’ you in the virtual space, and stop you feeling disoriented. 

Individual responses to VR vary, so it may take some trial and error to determine the most comfortable settings and experiences for your specific needs. If motion sickness persists or is a significant concern, consider consulting with a healthcare professional or seeking advice from the VR community for additional tips and recommendations.

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