Unlike other forms of entertainment, virtual reality has one big caveat. No, it isn’t strapping a headset to your face, it’s what happens after that. The dreaded motion sickness, that disconnection your mind and body have when moving through a VR experience. For some, it can be mild whilst others will notice more intense effects. However, there are options to alleviate this, you just have to find what works for you. So here are several ways of combating motion sickness in VR.
Why do I get motion sick in VR?
Essentially, this occurs whenever you move in VR. Walk forward in a virtual world and your eyes are telling your brain that you’re moving. But, the rest of your body is quite clearly not, and that lack of physical motion paired with your brain thinking you’re moving creates motion sickness. It is a similar effect as if you were in a car, your body is receiving one set of signals whilst your other senses deliver opposing ones.
And just like travel sickness, some people are affected by it and some aren’t.
Other factors can also include (but are not limited to) the quality of the hardware, latency and other factors.
Don’t rush into it
VR is great at immersing you in the moment, where you can forget about your real surroundings a focus on a virtual one. There’s a vast range of VR games and apps out there, not all of which are best suited to VR beginners. The best starting point is games that tend to be more stationary, building up to more action-based titles.
If you’ve got a Meta Quest headset then the Quest Store has a great comfort system – Comfortable, Moderate & Intense – to help guide your decision. We’d also recommend looking at our Quest 2 Games for VR Beginners which makes some handy suggestions.
The main takeaway here is don’t rush it, we’ve all experienced some VR nausea at some point. Just don’t let it put you off if it happens. Take a breather and come back again. Build your ‘VR legs’ up and over time you’ll be running (virtually) around the metaverse in no time.
Change those settings
Over the years VR developers have learnt what works and what doesn’t work in VR. Falling feels horrible but gliding is amazing, for example. The same goes for the simple act of walking forward, let alone more complicated actions like strafing. This has led creators to develop systems to combat motion sickness and nausea it causes.
The first was teleportation, selecting an area to move directly to it. Teleportation has subsequently evolved into various forms like ‘Blink’ slightly adjusting how that transition takes place. Another important option is snap turning. Rather than smooth turning which can trigger nausea in some players, snapping left or right is far more comfortable, and most games will tend to include 30/45 and 90-degree settings.
Games with a lot of movement will have these options and more, so it’s important to learn which suits you best. New titles nowadays will have an onboarding process to help you pick the right settings. Even so, this does still mean some trial and error, to begin with.
So you may need to sit down for the next one…
Get comfy and stay seated
Very, very simple. Get a nice comfy chair, sofa, stool, whatever and just sit down. Again, most games offer accessibility options to cater for playing seated so make use of it.
Furthermore, games, where you’re seated inside a car or cockpit, have been known to help. It’s that familiar sense of stationary objects like steering wheels and instruments around you that can trick your brain. A word of warning though, jumping into a VR plane and doing loops and spins isn’t advisable at first, might be a bit intense!
Alternative locomotion methods
You don’t have to rely on software methods to ensure a happy VR session. There are hardware solutions as well. These inevitably cost more money so aren’t particularly the first go-to solution. But they are there if needed.
Cybershoes, for example, are a pair of shoes with rollers underneath. You sit down and ‘walk’ along the floor to create the illusion of walking. Or then there was the 3DRudder foot motion controller. Another seated option, you place your feet on the controller and tilt it backwards and forwards to move. You might struggle to find one now though.
After that, you’ve got the big boys, the omnidirectional treadmills. Virtuix has the Omni One whilst Kat VR sells various models, the latest being the KAT Walk C 2. Both retail for $1000+ USD, making them a long-term VR investment.
Get some air
As mentioned, motion sickness in VR is similar to what happens when sitting in a car. So the same methodology can be applied to both. If you feel unwell in a car what do you do, crack a window and get some air.
While you could try and take your VR gaming outside, an easier solution would be to use a fan. A cool breeze may help alleviate symptoms or stop them from ever appearing. Additionally, if you’re playing a game where you’re flying through the air or sitting in a car with the top down you get that added sense of immersion!
It’s all in the wrist
Another traditional method is those travel wristbands. Based on acupuncture pressure – the Nei Guan point – nowadays you can spend less than $10 on one or go high-tech and spend over $200. This all depends on how badly you suffer day to day. So you’d have to do your own research into what’s best for you.
Not exactly our first recommendation, popping a pill to play VR but the option is there. Various medications exist specifically for travel sickness such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or meclizine (Antivert). If you’re going down this route discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist first.
None of these solutions are guaranteed to work but they all provide the possibility of having a nausea-free time in VR. Let us know which one worked for you, or are there other methods we’ve not listed? Let us know in the comments below.