Experiments with virtual reality motion controllers show improving immersion increases the risk of VR sickness and that the ill effects are a varied and complex matter.
One of the joys of working in the R&D Labs at Tapptic is the excuse to spend a week playing with new gadgets, but all good things can turn sour. And our experiments testing new hand-held motion controller systems and pushing the boundaries of virtual reality motion to the limits isn’t one we’d recommend, because it caused some of our human guinea pigs to feel severe discomfort and nauseous.
This article will describe our experiments, explain how they made us feel sick, and how we tried to reduce nausea and other ill effects. It will also outline our consequent analysis of VR sickness syndrome and conclusions that both the causes and the symptoms of VR sickness are more complex, profound and varied than many VR motion studies suggest.
Setting the scene
While wandering around the Electronic Entertainment Expo Los Angeles last year, a motion controller system caught our attention. People were testing a VR game called Sprint Vector, clutching special handheld controllers that enabled them to run and jump in a VR simulation by swinging their arms back-and-forth, like a soldier on a speed march, and throwing both arms up in the air to make their avatar jump — while the players’ real legs remain stationary.
For those who haven’t played a VR game before, the usual method of in-game locomotion is teleportation, where the player looks and points with the controller toward where they want to go and presses a button to move there. Teleportation came about as a way to avoid motion sickness, commonly experienced when using a joystick or keyboard directional buttons in VR games, but this lacks the immersive nature of being able to actually walk or run and to move forward while looking right or left in your virtual world.