Virtual motion sickness a reality

The Oculus Rift VR headset. Image from

The Oculus Rift VR headset. Image from

San Francisco [AP]

If the controls and movement in a traditional video game aren’t natural, it’s merely annoying to players. For designers of virtual reality experiences, the same mistake could make users sick.

With the release of a trio of high-definition headsets on the horizon, many VR aficionados at this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco are confronting the issue head on.

The low-latency headsets from Oculus, HTC and Sony are intended to right the nausea-inducing wrongs of their VR predecessors from 20 years ago but many users still report feeling woozy after using souped-up systems, such as the Oculus Rift.

‘The challenge is that people’s sensitivity to motion and simulator sickness varies wildly,’ said Evan Suma, an assistant professor who studies VR at the University of Southern California, during a talk at the 30th annual gathering of game creators.

It’s a unique design challenge for game makers accustomed to crafting interactive entertainment appearing on flat screens in front of gamers, not completely encasing them.

Despite the advancements made in VR over the past four years, there’s still concern the immersive technology may force players to lose more than a battle with an alien. They could also lose their lunch.

‘It’s been a huge focus of development,’ said Hilmar Petursson, CEO of CCP Games, which is developing several VR games, including the sci-fi dogfighting simulator EVE: Valkyrie.

‘We want super comfort all the way.’

Petursson said the developers of Valkyrie opted to surround seated players with a virtual cockpit to ground and shelter them from the effects of appearing to whiz through space past asteroids, missiles and ships.

Other designers are attempting to tackle the problem by limiting movement in virtual worlds and not inundating players with head-spinning stimuli.

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