The Reality Is Virtual, But the Motion Sickness Is Real

OneZero, June 2019

I was just settling in to a feeling of invincibility, gliding through fluffy clouds wearing a colorful wingsuit. But it didn’t last long. A little over a minute later the nausea began, my head started to sweat and throb, and I panicked as my virtual reality headset steamed up.

I knew this feeling from amusement park rides and ferry crossings — it’s the effects of motion sickness. Nausea within virtual reality has been a problem since the early days of the technology, though as VR has improved, thanks to screens that refresh more quickly and rely on more sophisticated movement sensors, users have felt more comfortable — and less likely to vomit.

Yet, despite these improvements, VR-induced motion sickness remains an obstacle for many players, regardless of whether they’re using an Oculus Quest, PlayStation VR, HTC Vive or any other major headset. Developers want us to embrace VR as an increasingly useful and powerful tool, offering the possibility of everything from precise and effective surgical procedures to powerful educational experiences for students of all ages. But if that’s going to happen, the technology needs to be easier to use, more comfortable — and it can’t make players ill.

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