How can the virtual reality disease be solved

Why VR games cause nausea - and what you can do about it

By Thomas Porwol | November 22, 2018, 2:06 p.m.

Nausea, cold sweat. blurred vision. Playing in virtual reality can quickly turn from an impressive gaming experience to a horror trip. TECHBOOK explains the causes and antidotes for VR disease.

Since the Playstation VR hit the market, virtual reality has finally picked up speed. More and more companies are investing in future technology, such as Microsoft and Facebook. New devices are constantly being announced, and some inexpensive devices such as the Oculus Go are now on the market. Although the development is proceeding rapidly, one major problem has not yet been fully resolved. Some people get sick after a short while in the virtual world and are forced to take a break.

Visually Induced Motion Sickness - VIMS for short - is the name of this short-term nausea, which is triggered by contradicting signals from the eyes and inner ear that the brain does not really know how to interpret. While the eyes are led to believe that the body is moving in space, the sense of balance reports a standstill - this conflict can lead to nausea.

But what to do if instead of gambling you spend the time on the sofa with a cold sweat on your forehead? TECHBOOK asked a motion sickness expert how nausea is triggered and what can be done about it. Behrang Keshavarz is researching the causes and treatment options of motion sickness at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

Women are more vulnerable than men

Not everyone gets equally sick while playing in VR - a large part of the population is even spared it entirely. However, there are differences between men and women - and age can also play a role in how susceptible you are to motion sickness.

“Some studies have reported that women are more likely to be affected than men. The reason for this is still unclear, ”explains Behrang Keshavarz. “Classic motion sickness is most pronounced in children aged eight to twelve. After that, the susceptibility decreases and adults between 18 and 50 years of age rarely have motion sickness. But there is a fraction of the population, an estimated five percent, who can suffer from it all their lives. "

If you are already an experienced gamer, then the chances are better that you will not feel sick even after putting on the VR headset. There is evidence that people who play computer games more often have a reduced susceptibility to VIMS, said Keshavarz.

That makes VR games sick

Games from the first-person perspective that offer a lot of movement are particularly predestined for triggering VIMS. First person shooters are a classic example. But jump’n’Runs or racing games from the ego point of view can also confuse the sense of balance.

In addition, technical issues can be responsible for nausea. An important factor here: the time lag between the physical head movement and the implementation of this movement in the virtual world. “If the time lag between head movement and the visual representation of that head movement is too long, then the risk of nausea is higher,” says Keshavarz. The refresh rate can also be a factor: “A smoother display, i.e. a higher frame rate, could possibly also help. However, there is hardly any research on this to date. "

That prevents nausea

If you are prone to VIMS and still don't want to let the fun spoil you, there are ways to prevent nausea. For example, music or a good indoor climate can help, says Behrang Keshavarz. “Studies have shown that listening to music in the background reduces nausea. Pleasant smells can help and good air circulation, for example through a fan, can also be helpful. "

It's also possible to gradually get used to games, explains Keshavarz. This adaptation, i.e. the process of getting used to a game, can be quite unpleasant. “Repeated training, that is, repeated playing of a VIMS-inducing game, can help reduce VIMS in the long run. However, the process is complex: Adaptation can take individually different lengths of time until it is successful and is always accompanied by nausea at the beginning. In addition, adaptation often only works in the tried and tested context: If I no longer feel sick with one game, that doesn't mean that it has to be the case with another. "

This is how you get rid of the nausea

A look at Sony's FAQ on Playstation VR shows: Sony is also already familiar with the problem of motion sickness in the virtual world. The electronics group therefore recommends taking a 15-minute break per hour of play and, in the event of nausea, interrupting the game completely.

This is an approach that Behrang Keshavarz also suggests in order to get rid of motion sickness as quickly as possible: “The first thing you should do is stop playing. Otherwise, unfortunately, there isn't much that can speed up the recovery process. General tips: drink a glass of still water, get some fresh air, rest. Most of the symptoms go away in five to ten minutes, but for some it can take a day or two - this is rare, but it does happen. "

Keshavarz also has a rather unexpected home remedy ready - even if its effectiveness has not been proven: "Some recommend ginger as a remedy for VIMS, but the scientific findings are not clear here."

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