motion sickness in virtual reality

Motion Sickness in Virtual Reality: Causes and Solutions

With the developments in the consumer electronics industry, VR is becoming more and more into our lives. Especially with the news in the last couple of months, it is possible that VR technology no longer will be a luxury product, but a necessity for socializing for everyone. Normally in this scenario, there isn’t a problem since VR headsets are very convenient and easy to use, and generally, everybody from a very large range of ages can enjoy the virtual environment safely. However, as there are positive sides, there are a couple of negative effects of using VR headsets, and motion sickness is probably the most common side effect of a virtual reality headset. As Sun Tzu said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles”, we should first know what VR sickness is.

VR sickness, or VR nausea, is similar to the motion sickness that we can experience in our daily lives when we are in a car or in a boat, however, it has also characteristic features special to itself. In normal motion sickness, there has to be a bodily movement, whereas, on the contrary, VR sickness occurs when there isn’t a body movement. In brief, it occurs when exposure to a virtual environment causes symptoms that are similar to motion sickness symptoms. The most common symptoms are general discomfort, headache, stomach awareness, nausea, vomiting, pallor, sweating, fatigue, drowsiness, disorientation, and apathy.

Naturally, the force of VR motion sickness varies according to each person, but it certainly affects the quality of time spent in virtual reality environments and it creates displeasure for most VR users, especially first-timers. 

Causes of VR Motion Sickness

Since the beginning of this problem, several types of research have been conducted to find out the main reason for VR motion sickness, since it is similar to, but at the same time, different than normal motion sickness. From the studies, experts have reached some possible causes and one of them is generally accepted by many.
Normally when we move, the parts of the inner ear, which basically have the balance mechanism of the whole body, also move. But when we use the controllers to move in VR, we don’t physically move; instead, we are moving in a very unnatural way, either with the teleportation method or using sliding. The experts in the area suggest that the lack of coordination between the sight of the eye and the movement in the ear causes that problem. While using a VR headset, our eye perceives that we are moving, but since the body doesn’t move, the brain fails to process these two incompatible senses together, and therefore, it makes us feel the effects of virtual reality motion sickness.

Even though motion sickness in virtual reality is unpleasant for everyone, the force of motion sickness may depend on different variables, such as gender or age. According to some studies, adult people who are older than the age of 50 experience the side effects of VR sickness more than the younger VR users; and women are said to be feeling the symptoms of VR nausea more than men. Also, getting used to the virtual reality environment is the key; on a new VR user, the effects of VR nausea are much stronger than on a person who is used to playing VR games.

Sadly, there is no certain cure for VR sickness, but there are some suggestions to overcome it. Let’s take a look at what to do!

Solutions for VR Motion Sickness and Nausea

Headset Choice and Positioning

Firstly, choosing the right headset is the key to eliminating VR sickness. If you want to play VR games but you have second thoughts about getting a headset because of the motion sickness, you may want to buy headsets that have a goal to reduce the VR sickness. Many of the popular VR headsets like Oculus Quest 2 and HTC Vive are 6DoF headsets, which help you feel more immersion in the virtual reality environment, and therefore, it helps you decrease the effects of VR nausea. Also, the position of the headset is important; don’t forget to adjust your VR headset straps according to your head and make sure that the headset fits you right. This makes your VR sight clear and eliminates any blurriness in the vision, and therefore it helps with the motion sickness directly.

Take It Slow

Secondly, you should be aware that your motion sickness in VR isn’t going to disappear all of a sudden; it takes time. It is known that there is an adjustment period and you will eventually get used to it. Therefore, it is important to take things slow and get used to the environment by starting with short time periods and increasing them gradually, especially for the new starters. If you are already a VR player for a time now and you still feel VR sickness, you may try to take occasional 10-15 minute breaks for every 40-45 minutes that you play or you may want to try different VR locomotion systems that enable physical movement in VR.

Try A Fresh Way Of Moving In VR

Like we said before, the main reason for VR sickness is the incoordination of the eye and the inner ear in the brain, and this is mainly caused by the unnatural way of moving in VR, depending on the controllers. As you may know, controllers are not the only way of moving in VR in these times and there are many alternative VR locomotion solutions on the market, like VR treadmills and motion capture devices. As WalkOVR, we claim that we are producing one of the most affordable and easy-to-use VR locomotion solutions in the market, and it incredibly helps with motion sickness in VR! According to a survey that we conducted among our users, 7 of the 10 users said that they feel a significant decrease in their VR motion sickness when they play with WalkOVR, and this was one of the main goals that we achieved through our journey.

Curious? Check out the video from VR ManCave in which WalkOVR is reviewed as a solution to VR sickness!

Use A Fan Or Open A Window

In VR, your body tends to believe that you are moving; this is the primary cause of motion sickness. While your eyes believe that you are moving, your muscles do not work, and you don’t feel any other environmental effects such as the cold breeze of the wind on your skin. What simulates the feeling of flowing air better than a fan or an open window? Nothing! So if you experience VR sickness, one of the things that you can do is to use a fan or open a window.

Don’t Play With A Full Or Empty Stomach

Who loves to play with an empty stomach, right? You shouldn’t dive into the VR world with an empty stomach (sorry intermittent fasters). But also, you shouldn’t play any VR games when you are super-full. If you have a VR sickness history, you can be sure that binge eating before a VR session won’t help you at all!

Read Comments of Other Gamers

Every game has different mechanics. Some games (like Slightly Heroes) might provide you with free-motion, while some games require you to stand still while playing (like Beat Saber). And of course, the level of VR sickness you get from these games is different. So, before you play games that might cause major sickness, you should start with a game that won’t cause much sickness. Don’t forget to take your fellow gamers’ opinions and suggestions before you but a game.

Get Used To It

If you have tried everything else and still couldn’t get rid of motion sickness, we have one last suggestion for you. It is the most important feature of the human race. It’s called the ability of adaptation. One way or another our adaptation skills kept us alive for thousands of years and we are pretty sure that it will make us survive VR motion sickness too. Just be brave and if you give it enough time and patience you won’t be affected as much as you used to!
As you can see, it is definitely possible to decrease the effects of motion sickness in VR; the important thing is determining the problem and choosing the right solution for you. We can state that WalkOVR is one of the best solutions for VR motion sickness because it changes the way you move and play in VR!
Track your movements in VR
Track your movements in VR


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