VR devices have been known to cause nausea ever since they came onto the market.
Newer devices with better hardware have gotten better at this… but still, the majority of people WILL feel uneasy during the first few days of VR use.
If you’re experiencing motion sick from using your VR headset, then you’re not alone.
We’ve compiled everything there is to know about combatting and overcoming VR induced motion sickness (or VIMS) in this massive guide.
We’ll be talking about what causes it and simple home remedies to help you get accustomed to VR – so that you experience VR Sickness less with time. We’ve also made a handy list of VR games to avoid and those you can play safely without getting sick.
Also, geeks can stick around till the end of the article to find all the design and hardware tweaks that prevent VR Sickness.
What causes VR Sickness?
VR sickness is not quite the same as the sort of motion sickness you’d get on a ship, or an amusement park ride. But they’re very closely related. In both cases, our sense of balance can’t figure out what’s happening around us.
Our ears work together with our eyes and bodily muscles to constitute our sense of balance. Vision and proprioception come together to let us look at things and stabilize ourselves while running around.
People get seasick because their eyes tell them they’re stationary, while the ears can feel the sea bobbing them up and down. Our bodies interpret this sensory dilemma in an interesting way.
Back when there were no seas or cars, hunter gatherers sometimes mistakenly ate stuff that can poison the balancing systems housed in the ear canals. So when you’re tearing down a VR race track at 150 miles an hour, the evolutionary response gives you nausea so you can puke the bad stuff out, even when there isn’t any.
This isn’t an issue with traditional video games on a computer or TV screen, but VR headsets visually fool the brain a bit too well. That’s why your body’s sense of balance gets thrown off and you start feeling all sorts of wrong.
Also, geeks can stick around till the end of the article to find all the design and hardware tweaks that prevent VR Sickness.
Symptoms of VR Sickness
You might be wondering whether your symptoms are common or extreme compared to the norm. VR sickness is often associated with:
- Heart palpitations
- Cold sweats and dizziness
- Increased salivation
- Burping or retching
- Pale skin
People experiencing VR sickness often report feeling ‘hungover’ and tired the next day. Extreme cases might even persist for over a day.
Like motion sickness, how susceptible people are to feeling sick using VR varies widely from person to person. Some people never get motion sick from VR no matter what they play. The majority will feel some VR sickness in the beginning, but get over it eventually.
20% of people will always get sick from VR and 20% never do, according to Oculus VR Chief scientist Michael Abrash. The remaining 60% of people will initially suffer VR sickness but get better with time. These estimates are consistent with a number of Reddit polls done with thousands of people.
But fret not, chances are you’ll grow your ‘VR legs’ too with a few days or weeks of exposure. More on that and common remedies to alleviate VR sickness later in the article.
The other major factor to ensure before beginning to get used to VR is that your games are running smoothly on your system.
Problems with the Hardware
Whether you have a Rift, a Vive or any of the Windows Mixed Reality Headsets, the resolution and frame rates supported by current VR headsets shouldn’t cause VR sickness. But running power-hungry games on a system that isn’t capable of handling it is a formula for disaster.
Try lowering your settings and disabling external applications like F.lux, which may interfere with performance. If you think your system isn’t running efficiently, this guide from Windows tells you how to get the most juice from your rig.
With that out of the way, we can start training our senses to become VR ready.
Growing your VR legs
The first VR adopters were divided in two camps on how to best adapt to the motion sickness.
One group believed that when you start feeling dizzy, continuing to play and pushing through the discomfort was the fastest way to adapt to VR. While others were of the opinion that listening to your body and only playing when you’re comfortable is the best thing to do.
The majority of people who have taken the previous approach haven’t had things work out for them. Users complained on online forums that they feel like they’ve trained their bodies to be physically repulsed by the thought of VR.
Just like Pavlov trained his dogs to salivate by ringing a bell, the ‘take it like a champ’ group started unconsciously associated their headsets with nausea, actually reducing the time they could play!
So it’s best to do it right, and not risk having to completely recondition yourself into even liking VR gameplay.
As soon as discomfort hits, stop the game, take off your headset for a quick breather. Ten to twenty minutes of rest should be enough to allow you to go in again. Over time your body should get used to this strange experience of moving in VR despite being physically still.
There are a number of things you can do to make your struggle with VR sickness easier. Try each of them and see what works for you.
Slice of Ginger
The most readily available solution to your VR woes is probably right in your kitchen! Chewing on a thin slice of ginger is an age old remedy for nausea and stomach aches. And it’s helped scores of VR users experiencing motion sickness too.
If raw ginger is too harsh to handle, try sipping ginger ale before and in between sessions, or suckling on a ginger candy.
Fan blowing in your face
It is common knowledge that a bit of fresh air can help spells of nausea a lot. Exactly how rolling down a window makes you less carsick on a bumpy road – users reported feeling much better with a fan blowing in their face when the VR sickness hits.
A light breeze from a fan reassures your body that it’s moving, reducing the likelihood of nausea. It can also add another dimension to the VR experience, making the wind feel like a result of moving in-game.
Dramamine is an over the counter drug that prevents motion sickness by blocking the nausea response in the brain. Needless to say, Dramamine works great for VR Sickness too. According to Vertigo Treatment, 50 to 100 mg of Dramamine for every 4-6 hours of gameplay should be enough to counter any nauseating effects.
The only major side effect of Dramamine is drowsiness. One reddit user hilariously fell asleep playing Driveclub on the PS4 after taking 2 Dramamine pills and reportedly “woke up in a Ferrari”. So don’t go overboard with it.
You can buy some at your local chemist.
These bracelets put pressure on the Nei-Kuan acupuncture point in the wrist, greatly reducing the likelihood of motion sickness. The were designed to reduce sea-sickness for travelers, but work for VR sickness too. Give it a shot if you’re into wristwear, or want to feel the general calming effects of acupuncture.
You can get it from your chemist.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way
If you try everything suggested so far without any progress, don’t despair.
Before you start thinking you’re in the dreaded 20% that’ll never get used to VR, and auction off your headset and VR games, know that there’s still hope.
Not all that is known about adaptability to VR. Remember that everyone’s brain is plastic, so perhaps you just need to take it a little slower to get used to VR than most. We’ve got some more tips to help you in your journey.
Some VR games are more sickening
It’s not a surprise that games involving rapid, jerky movements, and lots of acceleration are more likely to trigger VR sickness. So it might be a good idea to put off playing those until you’re more accustomed to gaming in VR.
One reddit user created this website that rates how sick certain games will make you feel:
Games that frequently trigger VR sickness
- Drive Club VR
- Skyrim VR
- Temple Run VR
- Half-Life 2 VR
- EVE: Valkyrie
- RIGS VR
Games that rarely trigger VR Sickness
Just so that you’re not disheartened from playing VR games altogether, here are the safest ones that most everybody feels comfortable with. Let these be your first few VR games before you move on to more fast-paced titles.
- Eagle Flight VR
- Loading Human VR
- Headmaster VR
- Thumper VR
- Hustle Kings VR
- Batman Arkham VR
Moving Forward from here
VR Induced Motion Sickness could prove to be the thorn in the paw for people that puts them off from taking interested this otherwise amazing technology. We know that most among the uninitiated are into giving VR a shot – imagine what they’d tell their friends after having a particularly puk-ey experience.
Fortunately, over the last few years we’ve learned a lot about how VR affects our bodies. Simple things like a ginger candy or a bracelet can prevent visitors of Experience Centers and VR arcades from going home horrified.
It is also imperative that VR game developers use smart design principles to make their product as comfortable as possible. We discuss some of them in the following section.
Software Tweaks that prevent VR Sickness
Adding a VR Nose
Researchers from Purdue University tried putting a fixed nose to the lower inside of the visual field in an attempt to reduce motion sickness. In a sandbox type simulation like the Tuscan villa tour from Oculus’ DK2 times, nausea was observed to be put off for over a minute and a half on average.
However, the nose added no more than 2 seconds of tolerance to a VR roller coaster ride. This fits in with our previous explanation very well. Experiences that involve large accelerations can be way more sickening.
The only commercial game we know of that uses a nose, is Eagle Flight Simulator by Ubisoft. Despite the premise of the game (flying around as an eagle) it almost never induces nausea, and is rightfully on the list of safe games we mentioned earlier.
Ubisoft did this by incorporating not one, not two – but all three major anti-sickness mechanics. A huge nose in the middle of the FOV, Dynamic FOV, and a control system similar to the recently patented BodyNav, which we talk about later.
Dynamically adjusting the FOV in VR based on speed and direction of movement is a very effective way of preventing VR sickness.
Current headsets have wide FOVs (Field of VIew) upto 110 degrees, which is great for immersion. However, wide FOVs are disorienting in VR. In real life, we have plenty of visual and physical cues that reassure us with the knowledge that the world around us is fixed.
In VR however, most games don’t have fixed visual cues. The experience is not too different from being a pair of eyeballs floating in mid air. A game like Eagle Flight alters the FOV when you turn, adding black blinders that block out a large portion of the screen. This gives the player a visual point of reference to keep them grounded. Although it looks glaringly obvious on a 2D screen, its quite imperceptible in VR.
More recently, Dynamically adjusted FOVs were found to greatly reduce VR induced nausea, in an award-winning paper by a group from Columbia University.
This is a new system of movement control that eliminates the need of a controller to move around and turn in VR.
Controlling in game movement through physical movements not only wards off motion sickness, but is a better way to control the game, period. Having to both interact with the game and move with hand-held controllers is needlessly complicated.
The designers at Monkeymedia who created Bodynav refer to this as increasing cognitive load. Wouldn’t it be a much more immersive experience if the only thing you did with your hands was pick up and shoot things? With BodyNav, that’s exactly what you’ll get.
You tilt your head forwards, backwards or to the sides to move. And you turn your body to turn.
Game developers will be able to license BodyNav for usage, so we should see more motion-controlled games in the future.
Fortunately for VR game developers and consumers alike, integrating a few of these smart design elements can go a long way towards preventing VR Sickness. However, let’s take a look at another really cool VR Sickness preventing interface to top the list off.
VR Treadmills: Expensive, yet effective
A VR Treadmill today is possibly the ultimate addition to your VR setup. And they come at a pretty hefty price. The most affordable ‘Slidemills’ begin at 3k USD, while a state-of the art system like the Infinadeck costs 100k USD.
We know that ultimately, VR only causes motion sickness because our eyes and the rest of our resting body disagree with each other. VR Treadmills seem like the perfect solution then. They allow us to move around, duck, stand up and physically do whatever we’re doing in the game, for real. VR treadmills and warehouse VR experiences are the only two ways this freedom of movement is achieved. However, a treadmill lets you do it in a much smaller space.
An interface like this is probably a little too rich for everyone aside from the most hardcore enthusiasts. But don’t worry, with the astronomical rate at which VR Location Based Entertainment is growing, you’ll probably get to experience one at your nearest shopping mall or VR Center pretty soon.
Hopefully this super in-depth has put a rest to all your queries about VR Sickness. Tell us what worked for you, and if you think we missed anything?