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I'm pretty resistant to motion sickness (car, train, sea) and I can play more than one hour with the Rift without any problem. But a friend of mine just tested it and couldn't bear it for more than 5 minutes (while he isn't especially prone to motion sickness neither).

What is causing it ? A few weeks ago, I read that the OculusVR team was working hard on this issue in order to reduce motion sickness, but how is that possible ?
Are there types of games or demos that are particularly harder to endure ? Any tips to avoid it ?

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Perhaps some delay between the movement of the head and the actual image on the screen makes a little lag on visuals that may cause motion sickness. –  Edeph Jan 11 at 11:58
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@Edeph Unfortunately, the problem is considerably more complicated. It is a matter of visual input not correlating to vestibular input. –  David M Jan 11 at 14:08
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Excellent article that describes what happens gamasutra.com/blogs/BenLewisEvans/20140404/214732/… –  Fredrik Apr 7 at 9:25

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

As Wiki says, motion sickness is

a condition in which a disagreement exists between visually perceived movement and the vestibular system's sense of movement.

So the main reason is sensory conflict, when your central nervous system receives different information from different sensors (eyes, inner ears, etc). There`s an episode of SciShow that explains it a bit.

Regarding Oculus itself, that can happen because of lag between your movements and the movements of the picture that you see or because you see that you`re moving while your body tells you that you`re perfectly still.

There are reports and discussions of this even on Oculus forums. You can find some unexpected tips there as well, like alcohol helping reduce the sickness effect and such =)

So, what to do?
First, as you said yourself, you can wait for new version of device itself, which is said to be an improvement from motion sickness point of view. It is possible thanks to reduced delay, so the lag is not so noticeable, which helps greatly, it seems.

Second, you can try to fight it with standard motion sickness tips. But if we discard motion sickness medication and drinking like the guys on OR forum, rest of tips are seemingly no so good for virtual reality things because your main sickness reason are your eyes and you can`t just close them or concentrate on some thing in the distance.

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In addition to the answers above which are nicely referenced to Wikipedia, I will make a few additional statements.

The motion sickness response is, unfortunately, hard-wired into many people. VR goggles have been around far longer than Occculus Rift, and have been causing sever motion sickness for just as long as they have been around. It is not a phenomenon isolated to the Rift. It is not even isolated to VR goggles.

Back in the early 90s when I first tried on VR goggles, I got so nauseated that I had to sit down for 10 minutes after a mere 2 minute exposure. (Which BTW cost $10 just to try out!)

I experience a similar phenomenon without goggles while playing FPS games, or games with rapid shifts of the background compared to a stationary character. But, without the goggles the effect takes longer to onset. (About 30-90 minutes, depending upon the game.) It has severely limited my ability to play a lot of games over the years. Quake made me want to vomit within 20 minutes, Metroid Prime an hour, etc. etc.

It is believed that this response is an evolutionary advantage gone hay-wire. For most animals, when the visual and vestibular systems are not reporting identical information, a toxin has been ingested. Therefore, vomiting in response to this conferred a survival advantage.

As far as strategies to avoid this:

First, not using VR goggles in the first place is a good one. This limits the gaming potential, but it keeps your floors clean of vomit.

If you insist on playing these games that induce motion sickness, then the best strategy is to play only for short periods of time, and then rest with eyes closed until the feeling subsides. Some people (myself included) find that putting an ice pack over the forehead/eyes can help with the sensation.

Another strategy which I've seen work for people: Fix on a farther away point. While this is not easy to do with a screen that is located about 2 cm from your eyes, you can trick your eyes by relaxing them. When focusing for near vision the eyes constrict, and extreme near vision the muscles around the eye tend to contract, too. By consciously allowing them to relax it will help to simulate the feeling of the eye adjusting to far vision.

I would NOT recommend using anti-motion sickness medication for this use. They are not without side effects, and long term use is not indicated.

Accupressure devices (such as the relief band) have been shown to work for many people. They are not medicated, and would be harmless to try out. But, they will not be a cure.

Source: Personal Experience, Years of Medical Training

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Great answer! Overall it seems that it`s not worth it. If one can handle an hour of OR then with breaks, eye relaxing, etc it can be playable. But if 15 minutes or less result in nausea, then it`s just not your thing. What do you think? –  icebat Jan 11 at 14:46
    
@icebat I agree 100%. Years ago, I had to make the decision to let most of the gaming world pass me by as graphics became more and more 3-dimensional. It was unfortunate, because there were a lot of fun games that I couldn't play. But, there has been a transition back to simpler line-art graphics in games, allowing me back in the door. –  David M Jan 11 at 14:51

Motions sickness can be caused by motion that is seen but not felt or when both system detect motion but they don't match.

Probably you can be fine with static games, or slow paced movements. Race games and shooters may cause it easily.

When playing console games, players usually see the context of the video game, as even if the video is moving, the eye can see it's watching a still screen and that matches the perception of still that comes from the ear. With an integral vision replacement all the player see is the game, so the eyes don't have a context that matches with the ear.

The easy solution would be to let some of the virtual reality goggles transparent, so that player can see something still with the eyes, or placing the player in an environment that matches the forces that the ears expect to feel.

For further info look here motion sickness

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This is all mostly true. But, making the goggles transparent can actually compound the issue. When you are in a car, the windows are transparent, yet the fixed reference points around you while moving still cause problems for many people. –  David M Jan 11 at 13:44

Suggestion (Disclaimer: only theoretical) To emulate speed have a fan and sound with fan speed tied to in game motion, if that helps even a little consider emulating other sensory inputs (not cheap). Another one, try to reduce sudden abrupt head motion to a minimum. Due to skewed images and sudden motion, the brain driver gives a false alarm for a neurotoxin. Additionally, your friend will adapt to the feeling after regular use/ training, brain has fascinating adaptive behavior. A word of caution, video games have been known to trigger seizures in children due to abrupt color changes, so proceed with caution, not every brain is wired identically.

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