Virtual reality is starting to become more mainstream. Within the last year we’ve seen the launch of three major players in the VR arena, namely the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR. Each have their own merits. In this blog post we’re going to try to answer a question we get asked frequently. Does playing in VR cause motion-sickness?
In our experience, customers using the HTC Vive have not experienced any form of nausea when playing in virtual reality. Of course, there will always be a small percentage of people for whom VR is not suitable, but we’ve not had anyone complain of nausea or any other side effects when using the HTC Vive in our VR Lounge. However, we thought it would be helpful to explain what can cause it.
In the early stages of developing virtual reality equipment, people did report feeling nauseous when playing VR games and experiences. This has actually been termed “virtual reality sickness” or “cybersickness”. This was due to the primitive technology available at that time. As the technology used in VR has become more advanced in the high-end VR systems, this issue has become rarer.
Before we delve deeper into virtual reality sickness, we’ll explain what it is, and why it’s different from motion sickness. Virtual reality sickness is caused by the visually induced perception of movement. It causes the sufferer to become disorientated when the brain is fed visual cues to movement but these cues do not correlate to the actual movement of the person, or what they expect to happen. This in turn causes the feeling of nausea (sometimes accompanied by headaches, discomfort and “butterflies” in the stomach).
Now that we have an understanding of what can cause virtual reality sickness, how do you stop it happening?
As explained in the previous paragraphs, you have to ensure that the person playing in VR doesn’t experience disorientation. This involves making sure head movements are correctly represented visually, as well as any representation of motion (i.e. walking) and movement of the handheld controllers. Another factor in eliminating virtual reality sickness is the refresh rate and resolution of the image being displayed in the head mounted display. In other words, the flickering and clarity of the image.
One of the reasons we chose to use the HTC Vive for our VR Lounge was the fact that the HTC Vive has technology inbuilt to almost totally eliminate the risk of virtual reality sickness. It achieves this by having a combination of 70 photosensors split between the head mounted display and controllers which allows for precision tracking using the two lighthouses which emit structured light lasers. On top of this, the head mounted display has a gyroscope and accelerometer. The screens in the head mounted display also refresh at 90Hz to ensure there is no flickering in the image. We also use high-end computers and graphics cards to ensure that the user experience is second to none.