Questions About VR Motion Sickness You’ve Been Meaning to Ask Finally Answered
There’s nothing more frustrating than putting on your VR headset and stepping into a captivating virtual world full of possibilities only for real-life motion sickness to kick you in the guts and ruin the whole experience.
Despite the recent boost in VR adoption and the mighty Oculus Quest 2 becoming more affordable for the average consumer, exposure to virtual environments can still leave some VR users feeling dizzy and nauseous, especially if they’re not very familiar with this type of immersive technology. (Ready Player One completely forgot to mention all this, huh?)
If you’re one of these people who struggles with VR motion sickness, the good news is there are many ways to alleviate symptoms so you can enjoy your adventures in the virtual realm to the fullest. But let’s start from the beginning and see what causes motion sickness in VR in the first place.
Why do Virtual Reality experiences trigger motion sickness?
According to research, VR motion sickness, also known as cybersickness, is a result of sensory conflict, where visual stimuli trick your brain into thinking your body is moving when in reality, you’re standing still. The mismatch between visual input and the input coming from the vestibular system, which controls your body’s sense of balance and spatial orientation, often triggers motion sickness symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and sweating.
These unpleasant sensations are similar to those experienced in the case of other types of simulator sickness, where people are playing video games from a first-person perspective for extended periods of time. What’s more, the effects of motion sickness can linger for up to several hours after you’ve left the VR environment.
What are the main factors that influence VR motion sickness?
Headset and controller type
The type of headset and controller you use can influence whether you’re going to experience motion sickness during a VR session.
3 degrees of freedom (3 DoF) VR headsets only track your head movements and are designed for more static experiences like 360-degree videos. Since this type of device doesn’t allow you to move around the 3D simulation, trying to do that would only result in an acute feeling of disorientation.
As opposed to 3-DoF headsets, 6 degrees of freedom (6 DoF) tracking provides you with an increased sense of presence by translating your body movements in the real world into actions within the virtual environment with better accuracy. Also, since you’re allowed to explore the VR space as you would do a real one, you can easily offset motion sickness sensations.
The same goes for 3 DoF and 6 DoF controllers — the latter offers a higher degree of interaction with virtual objects (especially if you get your hands on finger tracking controllers like the ones from Valve).
Latency in VR is one of the primary causes of motion sickness, as it creates a disconnection between your movements in the real world and what you see through your headset’s display.
That’s why leading VR companies strive to develop devices with high refresh rates (>90Hz) that deliver a smoother experience than previous models where there’s little to no delay in replicating the user’s body movements within the simulation.
Another factor that can influence the occurrence of cybersickness is the unusual eye movement required to stabilize the virtual environment on the retina.
When there’s a discrepancy between what your eyes expect to see and the actual motion of the 3D simulation, your vision has to adapt to be able to process what’s happening around you. And this new eye movement can induce motion sickness over time.
The struggle to maintain posture and balance in new circumstances such as traveling by sea or trying an app in VR is another element that can cause discomfort and trigger motion sickness symptoms.
A common example of VR postural instability is experiencing a virtual rollercoaster ride where your body tends to automatically lean forward in the real world while it fails to do so in the virtual world.
As in the case of seasickness, where it takes you some time to adjust to the postural instability on a boat, you’ll need to be patient until your body learns to find balance in VR and you get your “VR legs”.
How can you reduce motion sickness in VR?
Everyone deserves to comfortably enjoy immersive experiences in VR, so we’ve prepared a quick list of 8 simple tips to help you keep motion sickness at bay:
1. Use a high-quality VR headset
As we mentioned earlier, 6 DoF headsets with high refresh rates offer better immersion and freedom of movement with minimal to no latency, making them the perfect choice if you’re suffering from VR motion sickness.
We invite you to check out our quick guide on how to choose the right VR headset, where we clarify what common VR terms and device features mean so that you can make an informed purchase.
2. Start small and gradually increase VR session duration
To adapt your body and mind to immersion in a virtual world, you should start with less demanding simulations (skydiving is not a good idea if you’re a beginner in VR, trust us) and slowly build up time in VR from one session to another.
You can aim for a 5-minute session every couple of days and increase the frequency and duration over the next few weeks. This is a great way to become familiar with the technology and reduce nausea, dizziness, and other side effects.
3. Adjust your headset and in-game settings
Before entering any VR experience, make sure the headset you’re wearing sits comfortably on your head. Also, check whether the lenses are clean and the interpupillary distance (IPD) is correctly adjusted (if the device permits it). All these actions ensure your brain can digest all the conflicting information coming from various stimuli without any other disruptions.
Moreover, some VR applications feature a field of view adjustment, which enables you to darken the edges of the screen and better focus on the image right in front of you. This way, you’re less likely to get dizzy when you’re moving around that virtual space.
4. Sit down in a swivel chair
If you’re new to VR, sitting down helps with your postural stability and reduces the risk of feeling disorientated by the mismatch between your body’s real-life movements and what happens in the simulation.
Also, consider using a swivel office chair, as it can help you rotate your whole body as you explore the virtual environment without fearing you’re going to lose your balance or knock into something.
5. Use teleportation when moving in the virtual space
You can avoid dizziness while running or walking in VR by using teleportation, a common solution against motion sickness that allows you to point to a virtual location and get transported there instantly. Admittedly, this might take away from the overall sense of immersion by reminding you that you’re in a computer-generated world.
6. Take frequent breaks
You can prevent nausea and dizziness in VR and reduce eye strain by taking regular breaks, especially when you’re planning for longer sessions. What you should keep in mind is that you might not realize how unwell you feel until you take your headset off. We recommend you set a timer on your phone to remind you to stop and get some fresh air.
7. Use a fan to keep cool
Many VR users have suggested that pointing a fan in your direction could help alleviate any feelings of discomfort and nausea that might arise while you’re using the headset. While we know this advice might sound strange, you might want to give it a shot. After all, who knows, it might just work for you.
8. Try motion sickness medicine
Last but not least, you could take motion sickness medicine like Dramamine an hour before engaging in a VR activity that could make you feel sick. However, since this is a medicine, you should talk to your doctor or a pharmacist before taking it.
Enjoy VR experiences without a headache
Virtual reality is undoubtedly one of the most exciting technologies out there — in fact, several tech companies are competing with each other to build a fully-fledged metaverse.
Similar to AR, this type of immersive technology offers fantastic opportunities for corporate training and e-learning, allowing users to upgrade their skills in an engaging, risk-free virtual environment. While some people might experience motion sickness during their VR sessions, there are ways, like the ones mentioned in this article, to help our bodies adjust to this new setting more quickly.
Got any questions about VR or maybe a cool project idea? Write to us and our team will help you figure it out.