How big is the VR nausea problem?

Quora contributor, Steve Baker, presents some sobering insights into how much of a problem VR related nausea and disorientation is for the future of VR headsets. He highlights two main issues that cause nausea, lack of focus depth perception and lack of momentum perception. Both of which are very difficult to overcome with current technology.

On focus depth perception:

So we’re continually estimating range using the tensions in two sets of muscles – one for focus, the other for convergence. When the brain gets the right signals, these two mechanisms agree perfectly.

But in a VR display, they don’t agree. The focussing system says “This image is all at the same range” – the convergence system says “This image is at a variety of different ranges”.

And momentum:

When you’re walking along, and suddenly stop, the mass of your body wants to continue to move forwards – and you have to apply muscular force to preventing your arms from swinging forwards and your head from tipping. This momentum has to be absorbed when you’re stopping in a car or even turning a corner.

Those forces are entirely absent in a VR rig…and your brain notices that.

He also highlights the even greater risk of disorientation when returning to the real world and performing tasks that rely on our natural senses to determine distance and speed such as driving a car or riding a bike. Its a serious enough issue that the US Navy recommends up to 24 hours break after using VR before driving a vehicle.

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