Virtual reality has a motion sickness problem

Resident Evil 7 screen capture

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Tech evangelists predicted that 2016 would be “the year of virtual reality.” And in some ways they were right. Several virtual reality headsets finally hit the commercial market, and millions of people bought one. But as people begin immersing themselves in new realities, a growing number of worrisome reports have surfaced: VR systems can make some users sick.

Scientists are just beginning to confirm that these new headsets do indeed cause a form of motion sickness dubbed VR sickness.

Virtual reality raises real risk of motion sickness

woman wearing virtual reality headset

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With virtual reality finally hitting the consumer market this year, VR headsets are bound to make their way onto a lot of holiday shopping lists. But new research suggests these gifts could also give some of their recipients motion sickness — especially if they’re women.

In a test of people playing one virtual reality game using an Oculus Rift headset, more than half felt sick within 15 minutes, a team of scientists at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis reports online December 3 in Experimental Brain Research. Among women, nearly four out of five felt sick.

So-called VR sickness, also known as simulator sickness or cybersickness, has been recognized since the 1980s, when the U.S. military noticed that flight simulators were nauseating its pilots.

Dealing With Harassment in VR


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I didn’t realize the article was about us when I first started reading. But of course it was about us; it was about the entire VR development community, after all. The link I followed read, “I was sexually assaulted in virtual reality. This is a big F*cking problem,” and was about a woman’s experience being harassed in a virtual environment. As someone deeply involved in the growth of VR, this was extremely unsettling for me.

In her article, the author commented that the feeling of the original encounter remained with her for days afterwards – I can absolutely understand this. Even for me as a passive participant reading the article, I felt that anger and vulnerability carry with me. This highlights for me the potential and dangers of VR itself. The medium should force us to really think about how the sense of “presence” changes interactions that would feel less threatening in a different digital environment.

… Perhaps “power gesture enabled” can be a concept that’s part of the VR development language – the 911 gesture of protection and safe space, be it against sexual harassment, bullying, or any other form of unwanted confrontation. So when things don’t go well, when something happens that we as developers can’t predict and shield our players from, there’s always a safe place to be found – hopefully not just in QuiVr – but in VR in general.

Your brain isn’t ready for virtual reality

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After years of wide-eyed promises and hyperbolic speculation, the dawn of virtual reality is finally upon us.

While gamers and enthusiasts might be filled with joy, the risks of VR have been greatly understated. The staggering amount of a time a modern American spends in virtual worlds—either through a television or computer or smartphone—is making us gradually more anxious and a depressed.

Early adopters and developers of VR content and hardware reported “virtual reality sickness”—a form of motion sickness caused by the disconnect between an immersive visual world that simulates movement and action and a body that is typically static. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey recently described the jump between VR and the real world as no more a mental shift than leaving a movie theater, but the many threads, mods, and websites solely devoted to calming the VR-fueled mind and body would say otherwise. Samsung and Oculus even warn users to take ten minute breaks every thirty minutes and ask them to avoid driving or operating heavy machinery if such effects last long after they’ve left the virtual world.


Zuckerberg Offers Jaunty Preview of Horrific Techno-Future

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At an event touting the Samsung Gear virtual-reality headset yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg strode to the stage, right past unaware users each lost in their own VR experience.

As is the case with most Zuckerberg images, it became fodder for some jokes. A lot of people, on the other hand, saw the photo for what it really was: a horrifying vision of the future…


Where will maps lead the travellers of tomorrow?

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Imagine a machine that could transport you from one side of the world to the other at the press of a button. One minute, you’re wandering amid the stupas of Borobudur, Java; the next, you’re exploring a grotto in Poland’s Wieliczka Salt Mine; later still, you’re following giant tortoises along a volcanic ridge in the Galapagos Islands. I haven’t been to any of these places. But thanks to that magical machine – not one, come to think of it, but several: on my desk at work, in the study at home, in the pocket of my jeans even – I know they’re all just a moment away.

For that, I salute the ever-increasing richness of Street View, the offshoot of Google Maps that allows you to parachute Pegman – the little yellow icon in the corner of the map – into panoramic photos of the real world.

For many people, Street View, virtual reality, and whatever technology builds on or supplants them, will provide the impetus for adventure. No question about it. But is it too fanciful to suggest that it might also signal the start of a different trend: the ‘traveller’ who, for reasons ranging from lack of opportunity to outright apathy, explores the world through technology alone.