Nausea: when virtual reality makes you want to vomit

Virtual reality offers experiences that are often rich in emotions. However, some users suffer from side effects that can be annoying to the point of totally ruining the experience. An update on these inconveniences that are often linked to motion sickness.

Cybersickness: the side effects of virtual reality

Many users reported suffering from dry eyes or headaches, but most often nausea. These symptoms, now known as “Virtual reality sickness” or “Cybersickness,” are similar to those experienced by some people in transport.

According to a study conducted by video game publisher Ubisoft, 45% of users acknowledged some discomfort during the experiment, and 6% admitted to having been particularly affected by these symptoms.

The reasons for nausea are known

For doctors, nausea experienced by some users has well-known origins. It is the same principle as kinetosis (motion sickness). Doctors explain that the brain can feel inconsistencies during a virtual reality experiment and its reaction is to cause nausea to indicate that something is wrong.

Movement headset virtual reality nausea motion sickness

Indeed, the visual information he receives does not correspond to the data coming from the balance. The brain sees that the body is moving or accelerating but does not feel this information from the inner ear, which is responsible for sending information about the body’s balance and movements. Also, there is often a slight discrepancy between the movements of the head and the images, disturbing the brain. Low resolution or low image display frequency can also contribute to these unpleasant symptoms.

Recommendations of the experts

Experts who have studied cybersickness have pointed out some areas for improvement. First, the equipment. The headset and the associated computer or smartphone must limit the time lag between the display of images and head movements. Scientists believe that latency of 20 milliseconds should be the maximum tolerable. They also recommend a display frequency of 60 frames per second or more.

On the software side, experts advise application developers to avoid sudden or erratic acceleration movements. Scientists have also realized that the amount of information on the screen is essential. Indeed, the more elements of the decor likely to attract the eye of the user, the more he does not know where to look, making him more sensitive to nausea. Giving the player fixed landmarks is also essential. For example, experts recommend leaving a dashboard exposed in a piloting simulation application.

The difficult case of lack of movement and acceleration

Although the recommendations made above by the scientists partially correct some of the factors that can trigger nausea, the lack of correlation between the movements and accelerations visualized and those felt by the inner ear is not affected.

For this particular point, the most obvious solution is to use an armchair that reproduces the movements and accelerations reproduced on the screen. This technology exists and has even been used for years in some amusement parks. However, it is extremely costly and difficult to implement. However, researchers are working on another technology, simpler and cheaper, which uses a headset that sends electrical signals to the inner ear artificially reproducing movement and acceleration information. This technology is not yet fully developed.