Virtual Reality Sickness: Tips and Tricks

Errol Danehy ’18

One of the biggest obstacles to the spread of VR is a unique problem: virtual reality sickness. Similar to motion sickness, this condition can cause nausea, dizziness, headache, and imbalance. But unlike motion sickness, VR sickness can be induced simply by the visual component of an experience; actual motion is not needed in order for symptoms to develop. VR sickness is very common among first-time users, but sometimes the effects persist even after a user should have become accustomed to the sensations of VR.

Here are some tips to try if you feel VR sickness coming on:

  1. Try again!
    • The first few VR experiences may be uncomfortable, but with time, you will probably become more accustomed to the new sensations – you’ll earn your VR ‘sea legs.’
  2. Eat ginger
    • It’s been shown to help with motion sickness symptoms, and it may help smooth out any discomfort that experience doesn’t erase.
  3. Use a fan
    • Having some air moving across your face and skin can help calm seasickness; it works for VR too!
  4. Only play when system performance is high
    • Sometimes, the experience or VR system will not function at maximum frame rate or resolution.
    • These issues can make VR sickness worse, so restart the experience or system rather than trying to power through.

As VR designers, we can aim to reduce VR simulation sickness by implementing a few simple solutions.  First of all, we can produce a VR experience using a high quality platform with great resolution, which will play at a high frame refresh rate.  We can also make sure that movements of the camera perspective and objects in a scene are not too drastic (rapid, rocky, or unpredictable) so players are not overwhelmed.

One study has found that adding the edges of a VR ‘nose,’ visible at the center of the headset display, can also reduce simulation sickness.  This digital nose emulates the way we perceive a bit of our own noses when looking around in real life.  Having this reference point may help players feel more grounded, and the visual experience is more realistic.  Likewise, allowing players to catch glimpses of their own hands or legs in VR can help them feel centered, reducing the likelihood of a bad case of VR sickness.

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