At my last job engagement at VR content creator Kenzan we ran a roadshow throughout Switzerland together with Coop shopping malls. “Eintauchen in die Virtuelle Realität” it was called, “Dive into Virtual Reality”. It was a short engaging game, in which you had to walk on 16 square meters. But more important for this blog entry, we touched more than 30’000 people during 30 weeks in Switzerland and gained a lot of experience.
I had two key learnings out of this roadshow:
- People are spoiled by bad VR content! Many adults did not want to try because they got sick in their last Cardboard VR or Playstation VR experience.
- If done right, people do not get sick. Zero.
But let’s start with the basics, How many people are affected and why do they get sick in VR?
Motion sickness is a very common phenomenon. Depending which study (links below) you look at you land at around 25-40% affected people. I belong to the ultra-sensitive group, it applies to sea, to tilting trains and of course VR too, which makes me a good test subject. In VR the physical movements have to be synchronous with the image the person sees.
Typical issues that can have an impact on the participants wellbeing.:
- A delay s between physical movements and the movement the participant sees in VR (so called lag or latency).
- Technical performance of the VR system, frame rate of the displays per eye.
- The participant in game moves on foot but stands still in real life (many Sony VR games have this problem)
- The participant moves in a vehicle but stands still in real life.
How can you solve these issues?
First of all, the limitations of the technology have to be taken into account. Both in terms of performance and room-scale abilities. If the technology does not enable real-time physical movement, don’t program the content to do so, this is the case for e.g. smartphone VR and Sony PlayStation VR which do not offer real room scale. An easy workaround is teleportation. In terms of performance it is key that 90 or more fps (frames per second) per eye are reached.
If you put your participants into a moving vehicle, be it a plane, car or spaceship, ensure that there is a physical reference in the field of view. In Rush of Blood in Playstation VR I get sick easily, but not in Valkyrie, where you have pillars in the field of view.
Does it get better over time?
There is a general assumption and articles in the industry that the more you expose people to VR, they will adapt to motion sickness and thus “be cured”. After two years in the industry I can tell you that I get sick immediately spotting a bad VR experience although I had a VR display on a lot. If you know anyone that has been cured from VR motion sickness give me a shout out I’d love to speak to that person.