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Virtual reality’s biggest downfall? Experts say it’s nausea

Who the heck wants to pay $500 a pop for something that will make you vomit? Such is the dilemma of virtual reality.

virtual reality VR

Experience nausea from the comfort of your couch

If you’ve ever been car sick or sea sick, you know it is no fun. How about being stuck on a plane at 10,000 feet in the midst of turbulence? I’d rather have my eyes poked with a pin. You can get the same sense of nausea in the comfort of your own home just by slipping on a pair of HD VR Goggles. That is ALSO not a good thing. Who the heck wants to pay $500 a pop for something that will make you vomit? Such is the dilemma of virtual reality.

A great concept on paper: of total immersion in a 3D world, but once you’re there you better strap yourself in and reach for the vomit bag. It does’t appear to be a problem that will be resolved any time soon. Although the VR industry is sure spending a lot of money trying.

The issue with virtual reality

Quora user recently discussed the reality of VR nausea and it’s a real stomach turner: According to expert Steve Baker, there is strong research evidence that “The harm VR headsets cause can be felt for as much as 8 hours AFTER you stop using the goggles.”

Depth perception

“I believe that the most major problem is with depth perception,” Baker opines. “For objects closer than a few meters, you have to refocus the lens in your eye using the ciliary muscles. The amount of force that those muscles have to produce in order to achieve that focus is a direct measure of the distance to the object. There are no designs for displays that can produce light that’s focussed at a wide range of distances – so without some very new technology – we can’t fool the brain.”

He notes that the most common symptoms are general discomfort, headache, nausea, vomiting, pallor, sweating, fatigue, drowsiness, disorientation, apathy, postural instability, and retching.

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“It is different from simulator sickness,” Baker notes, “non-virtual reality simulator sickness tends to be characterized by oculomotor disturbances, whereas virtual reality sickness tends to be characterized by disorientation.”

Will these side effects slow down adoption rates of virtual reality devices? Probably not, given the implications of the technology, but knowing the risks and rewards helps innovation to move in a healthier direction.


Written By

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.



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