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Oculus VR Working on Simulation Sickness Issues

By - Source: Polygon | B 15 comments

Honestly, I can't say I felt any kind of "simulation sickness" the two times I experimented with the Oculus Rift HMD during CES 2013 and E3 2013. If anything, it was a task just getting used to the idea that hey, the mouse no longer needs to be used to look around in a virtual environment. Of course, my sessions were somewhat long enough to get a taste of the technology: for those that use VR for long periods of time, simulation sickness can become an issue.

According to Oculus VR's VP of products Nate Mitchell, simulator sickness is the exact opposite of motion sickness. "In motion sickness there's all this motion but you don't visually perceive the walls and ceilings are moving," he told Polygon during GDC Europe 2013. "This is what creates the conflict that makes you dizzy. With simulator sickness it's basically the inverse. These are all the things you want to avoid as game developers."

The trouble with both is that there are differing opinions about where these conditions originate and what solutions can prevent them from occurring. They're largely misunderstood in the medical community, so developers behind virtual reality HMDs like Oculus VR are going to great lengths to research and solve problems related to simulating environments. Unfortunately, VR is still at its earliest of roots – it may be a long time before most symptoms are resolved.

"This is the sort of thing developers like Oculus need to make," he added.

He listed a number of scenarios that contribute to simulation sickness such as changes in altitude like staircases, backwards or quick lateral movement, minimal shifts to the horizon line, and even head bobbing. He added the team is still debating on whether head bobbing actually provides problems. "I'm of the opinion that head bob is not for us, but it needs more research," he said.

Eventually the budding VR industry will see less and less simulator sickness as hardware and software developers come together and create a standard that will keep simulation sickness-causing triggers from appearing. The problem will likely never be completely eliminated, but at least companies like Oculus VR are working to keep our need to puke into the trash can at a minimum.

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  • 4 Hide
    Robert Pankiw , August 26, 2013 4:01 PM
    I've used the rift a bit, and I can say, a gut wrentching feeling was fast upon me. That didn't matter to much, it was so very amazing. Hopefully I can go for longer at a time, as I plan to buy the consumer version.
  • 2 Hide
    jhansonxi , August 26, 2013 4:42 PM
    Not just a VR issue. I had a coworker who was in the military. He was on several ships and didn't have any problems. He could also play Descent for hours without problems, flying upside down and the like. He couldn't look at a screen with Quake on it for five minutes without getting sick (and I doubt it was the earth-tone color scheme). I've had occasional problems with 3D games but could never determine the cause or remedy.
  • 1 Hide
    mman74 , August 26, 2013 5:57 PM
    Since the days of the 486 FPSes Wolfenstein, Doom, etc, I've always found playing games where you run along corridors with walls spinning around at high speeds, enough to make me vomit. Now fortunately with improved graphics and draw distances, higher refresh rates and fluid motion, I fare a lot better. Which is good as FPSes are still my favourite genre.
  • 0 Hide
    tului , August 26, 2013 10:23 PM
    If I was a trillionaire, I would make something the size of the LHC, put a gaming chair in it that could accelerate on 3 axis, with so much room to loop around I wouldn't notice the slight circular motion. Too bad I'm a prole.
  • 0 Hide
    x2ruff4u , August 27, 2013 12:13 AM
    My buddy has one that I borrow sometimes and at first it was great no sickness, but after about 10-20 minutes the motion sickness started kicking in. It reminded me of watching a 3D movie and at first it's not so bad, but starts to progress little by little. I think what most people see on videos is people using it for the first time because it's so exciting it just doesn't kick in yet unlike 3D were people have at least seen 3D movies. This is just my personal experience which I really do hope they fix. This issue has been talked about a lot and now it's barely getting light..I will still wait for the Retina version because of the PPI is very noticeable since your eyes are so close.
  • 0 Hide
    rwinches , August 27, 2013 1:10 AM
    The brain needs physical feedback correlated to the motion.

    If you want an example of the disconnect, try this.

    As a passenger in a car on a long straight road traveling at highway speed look at the road far ahead through a pair of binoculars. It is disconcerting right away as the road moves toward you slowly in a way that does not match with the speed you are traveling. It is both fascinating and unsettling at the same time.
  • 0 Hide
    4745454b , August 27, 2013 5:56 AM
    I think it will effect people differently. I know a girl who can't watch 3D movies at all. And I mean at all. My friend can watch it, only gets a headache. I watch it, I'm fine. I remember reading the warnings on Quake and the like. I NEVER had an issue with those games. The only thing that got to me was Decent. Upset my stomach while playing that game. (no headache, just the uneasy feeling in the belly.) OR will come out and some won't be able to handle it, while others will probably wonder how they survived for so long without it. My question is what makes us so different that some can't use it at all, while others love it.
  • 0 Hide
    IndignantSkeptic , August 27, 2013 6:44 AM
    Many of us might have to resort to taking motion sickness pills to play. Hopefully there are no side effects to those pills. Maybe the only side effect is if you eat poison then you won't vomit to get rid of the poison. That happens very rarely though.
  • 0 Hide
    x2ruff4u , August 27, 2013 7:07 AM
    Quote:
    I think it will effect people differently. I know a girl who can't watch 3D movies at all. And I mean at all. My friend can watch it, only gets a headache. I watch it, I'm fine. I remember reading the warnings on Quake and the like. I NEVER had an issue with those games. The only thing that got to me was Decent. Upset my stomach while playing that game. (no headache, just the uneasy feeling in the belly.) OR will come out and some won't be able to handle it, while others will probably wonder how they survived for so long without it. My question is what makes us so different that some can't use it at all, while others love it.


    Take a look at roller coasters. There's a lot of people who love them and a lot of people who don't. Even though it's not one if you get into it enough you will get that near motion sickness. It would be interesting if they make a chair of some sort with the Rift in conjunction to make it feel like a real roller coaster ride like the ones in Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure :) 
  • -2 Hide
    4745454b , August 27, 2013 7:11 AM
    I'm not 100% sure roller coasters are the same. Those have a very real danger to them. Yes there is motion, but "woodies" are famous for adding the sound of creaking wood to "enhance" the fear factor. There aren't usually people dying playing games. (unless you are in Korea. No offense.)
  • 0 Hide
    tburns1 , August 27, 2013 7:35 AM
    I remember playing "Turok" for about 10 minutes and being ready to hurl. Bad head bobbing. Very b-b-b-blaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhed!!!!
  • 0 Hide
    ammaross , August 27, 2013 8:16 AM
    The way that World of Warcraft fuzzes and randomly bobs the screen around when drunk (especially during Brewfest...) is what tends to get me after a bit (sick gut feeling and a bit of headache inducing). I've had no issues otherwise with stereoscopic 3D (active or passive), cars, boats, planes, or trains, etc.
  • 0 Hide
    theclouds , August 27, 2013 3:56 PM
    I wonder if the effect is similar to motion sickness on boats and cars, since it most certainly is related. I'm sure users will gradually adapt, and the simulation sickness effects diminish with time. Still excited to get mine!
  • 0 Hide
    mapesdhs , August 29, 2013 3:03 PM

    I researched this field for a while back in the early 1990s, which eventually
    led to my dissertation being partly on the side effects of playing Doom, namely
    Part 2 (NB: if any of you ever used the old Doom cheat codes file, most likely it
    was the one I wrote when I ran the DHS and the USENET group); see:

    http://www.gamers.org/dhs/diss/

    I had hoped to do more when I became head sysadmin at a VR research
    centre in 2000, but alas I never had the time, even though I ended up
    owning plenty of relevant equipment (high-end SGIs, etc.) Ah well.

    Anyway, the best work I could find on these issues back in 1994 was
    by Dr. Eugenia M. Kolasinksi at the US Army Research Institute (West
    Point). See:

    http://www.hitl.washington.edu/scivw/kolasinski/
    http://www.psychologyforeliteperformance.com/biography.htm

    I had a number of conversations with her about sim sickness issues.
    It's a very complex area, so many factors involved, great variance
    between individuals, as I quickly discovered with my very limited Doom
    study, which ideally should have been much larger, but I lacked the
    time, though it was still revealing and interesting nonetheless; those of
    you here referring to Doom, Descent, etc., have a look, it'll probably
    bring back memories! I asked Eugenia recently about her work back
    then; she said it's still a decent resource, though much more has been
    done since of course, using newer equipment, techniques, etc.

    Possible side effects is one of the reasons Nintendo canned the
    Virtual Boy. I tried the VB at NOA's HQ on a visit in 1995; the 3D
    effect worked rather well IMO (only wireframe gfx though, so I
    didn't think it'd be much of a hit), and I had no problems, but I
    guess Nintendo decided the wider risks weren't worth the hassle;
    rumour has it the $40M VB budget had originally been intended
    for an HMD for the N64, canned for similar reasons, but I couldn't
    get that confirmed.

    Side effects of various kinds will always be a problem for VR technology.
    Extended or excessive use, and/or use by those partcularly prone to relevant
    effects, is where the problems will lie. My suggestion was the user should
    sign a waiver when they buy such equipment, but that might be complicated
    I suppose, and perhaps not valid anyway in some nations. Still, worth a try...

    In the end, common sense perhaps? Try it & see; if you don't get side effects,
    or if they're tolerable with sensible usage, then buy. Otherwise, don't buy. Let
    the market decide and let the user bare the usage responsibility.

    Ian.

  • 0 Hide
    mapesdhs , August 29, 2013 3:25 PM

    Btw tburns1, I never had a problem with Turok, but your comment is interesting
    because it's a good example of variance. Despite the fact that motion sickness
    effects from games have never been a problem for me, simulator sickness is a
    different ballgame entirely. :D  One of the strongest visual effects I ever managed
    to generate was within the Reality Centre I helped run at Salford Uni (large wrap-
    around display, about 10' high, very wide field of view, seating for about 20 people,
    three 1280x1024 edge-blended projectors). It looked similar to this:

    http://ww2.hdnux.com/photos/10/41/05/2232685/7/628x471.jpg
    http://www.barco.com/projection_systems/images/Shell_Rijswijk1_L.jpg

    Viewing a 3D model of a floating island (not unlike that used in the Unigine
    Heaven demo in concept, but less detailed), suddenly moving the viewpoint
    so that the viewer was taken *underneath* the whole structure was enough
    to make most people (including me the controller) feel pretty damn wierd. :D 
    I never tried it with the stereo turned on though; I'd already heard from other
    staff members that at least one visitor had barfed in the past. :)  (not from a
    demo I did thankfully)

    By complete contrast, the motion-tracked CAVE system produced no issues at
    all, and btw, Quake in a CAVE is awesome. 8) (the gun is motion tracked too)
    I figured the motion tracking made all the difference.

    Ian.