There’s a lot of joy to be had from using virtual reality (VR) headsets which largely comes from the ability to explore stunning and immersive virtual environments without having to use any form of transport. That said, even though with VR you get to avoid the physical transport you don’t always get to avoid the dreaded motion sickness associated with it. It’s largely to do with the disconnect between what you’re seeing and what your body is doing and although it doesn’t happen to everyone, it’s happening to enough people that the National Science Foundation is tasking researchers to look into it and find any kind of possible solution.
It appears all this research might be paying off since a group of researchers from Columbia University think they have come up with a simple but effective solution to the problem: dynamically restricting the field of view displayed in your VR headset while you move.
We mentioned the disconnect between what you’re seeing and what your body is doing before as being a big contributing factor in making VR users feel nauseated when they put on a headset. It’s disconcerting for your brain to see that it’s moving around a colourful, though not convincingly realistic, world whilst your body remains still.
In a paper called Combating VR Sickness through Subtle Dynamic Field-Of-View Modification the researchers from Columbia University posited that a lot of the motion sickness problems people experience in VR stem from the fact that when you move in VR, your visual eyes experience a disconnect with the sense of balance in your inner ear which leads to the illness. Their theory is that by restricting your field of view and therefore the amount of things that could overwhelm your brain the feelings of sickness might lessen.
To establish how much the field of view had to be restricted and how quickly it had to happen to be effective, the researchers performed tests, paying participants to put on an Oculus Rift DK2 HWD with integrated 6DOF position and orientation tracking. The study participants were split into two groups, and tasked with wandering around a virtual Tuscan villa while their fields of view were dynamically tweaked with for two sessions over two days. Incredibly, the researchers found it worked, reporting in their paper that their “data indicates that FOV restrictors helped participants stay in the VE longer and feel more comfortable than they did in the control condition. Our data also suggests that FOV restrictors helped participants experience less discomfort on their first experience, which in turn helped them transition into their next session.” The researchers said that the restrictors actually went unnoticed by the majority of the participants, with half of them saying they didn’t notice the FOV decrease at all but even those who said they did notice changes said they generally preferred having the restrictors regardless.
So, this is good news for anyone who’s ever taken off a VR headset and had to run to the nearest bathroom as, according to Spectrum, the researchers have already filed a provisional patent on their technique.
VRFocus will follow the development of the implementation of this technique and report news as and when it happens.