Columbia University Research On VR Sickness Prevention, Dynamic FOV Modification Showing Promise

Columbia University Engineering released a video describing research that shows promise in reducing VR sickness when moving around a virtual environment with an input device.

The researchers--joy Fernandes and Steven Feiner at Columbia University Engineering’s Computer Graphics and User Interfaces Lab--found that dynamically limiting the user’s field of view increased the average comfort levels of participants.  

VR sickness, also known as Simulation Sickness, describes the feeling of discomfort that comes over you when you experience something unnatural feeling in virtual reality. Sometimes it manifests as dizziness, some people get nauseous, and sometimes you just start to sweat. In either case, these symptoms are not fun and can leave you with a negative impression of VR and potentially an aversion to trying the experience again.

These reactions are most often triggered when a movement in VR doesn’t match your movement in real life. That is precisely why head tracking helped reduce potential motion sickness. The HTC Vive takes that to the next level by tracking your movement within a given area, but other VR HMDs will leave you seated, so the potential for VR sickness remains.

Fernandes and Feiner ran an experiment with 30 volunteers that tested the effects of “scaling a variable transparency polygon inserted in front of each of the users eyes.” The two researchers call these transparency polygons field of view (FOV) restrictors.

“Our data suggests that by strategically and automatically manipulating FOV during a VR session, we can reduce the degree of VR sickness perceived by participants and help them adapt to VR, without decreasing their subjective level of presence, and minimizing their awareness of the intervention,” said Fernandes and Feiner.

Fernandes and Feiner spread the test over two days and split the volunteers into two groups. On day one, 15 people were shown a demo without adding FOV restrictors, and 15 people did the same test with dynamic FOV restrictors enabled. On day two, the groups ran the opposite tests. During each session, participants were asked to rate their level of discomfort from one to 10. Fernandes and Feiner's results suggest that the test demo was more comfortable for subjects when the FOV restrictors were in use. The data also suggested that most people don't notice the reduction happening. The two researchers noted that participants who did actually notice the FOV restrictors preferred them.

Dynamic FOV

Fernandes and Feiner presented their findings at the IEEE 3DUI 2016 conference, which took place in March, where they received the IEEE 3DUI 2016 Best Paper Award for their work. You can find the full paper on the IEEE Xplore website, but you will have to pay for access. (The IEEE charges non-members $33, members receive a $20 discount.)

First person shooters are often the most popular games. Many people are hoping that franchises such as Call of Duty will make their way to the medium in the future. Findings such as the results that Fernandes and Feiner's study revealed show promise for a future where that could be possible without causing VR sickness for most people.

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  • turkey3_scratch
    I'm confused with what it means by "limiting the field of view". Are we talking about depth or what?
  • InvalidError
    Anonymous said:
    I'm confused with what it means by "limiting the field of view". Are we talking about depth or what?

    You are thinking of viewing distance. The 'field of view' refers to how wide and tall the visible area is.

    They mask the edges with a scaled black alpha gradient to reduce the amount of visible stuff in the peripheral vision.
  • Jeff Fx
    I wonder if this will help with high-speed games. I can handle navigating a virtual room with a controller, though room-scale is more comfortable, but I can only spend a few minutes in Project Cars before I need a break.