Research Addresses Motion Sickness in VR

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I’m one of the lucky individuals whose inner ear has a very distinct sense of humor by urging me to throw up every time I’m in a moving vehicle. Earlier this year, when I attended the Tribeca Film Festival to try out some of the amazing virtual reality projects showcased at TFI Interactive, I was surprised to find that some of the virtual experiences had the same effect.

For many, the disparity between what their body ‘knows’ to be real and the virtual environment their senses perceive results in motion sickness. More specifically, when the eye sends visual signals to the brain that do not align with aural cues detected by the ear, equilibrium is compromised and the sensation of nausea sets in.

To address this issue, researchers at Columbia University made simple adjustments to users’ field of vision–namely, making it narrower as someone moves through a virtual world–and found that many volunteers were able to stay immersed for longer periods of time. The team ran two trials that involved 30 volunteers.

Steven Feiner, a professor of computer science at Columbia and co-author of the study, believes that humans will continue to engage with virtual reality on an increasingly frequent basis in the future.

“It is critical that the experience be both comfortable and compelling,” he told the BBC, “and we think we’ve found a way.”

Feiner himself suffers from VR-induced motion sickness, so he felt particularly compelled to tackle the issue, which he believes could inspire an unfortunate aversion to this exciting technology.

He and fellow researcher Ajoy Fernandes created the following video to demonstrate how their modifications to users’ field of vision would work: