Researchers Sniffing out a Solution for VR Sickness

A Virtual Nose may be the cure to motion sickness in virtual reality headsets.

For some people, putting on the Oculus Rift or any other virtual reality headset comes with the stomach aching, head-churning feeling of motion sickness. Motion sickness, or Virtual Reality Sickness in video games, is the absolute pitfall of all of these headsets as it puts you in the position of weighing the risks of experiencing something completely out of this world, or throwing up the lunch you just had. 

The sensation that is being felt is caused by the confusion of the mind, when you put on a headset, you are playing tricks on your senses and brain. The difference between what you are perceiving, and what your senses are actually feeling are two different things. For example you see yourself and think you are moving, but your body actually is not moving.

Everyone has a really hard time adjusting to these problems, and it's normal considering that no one has ever really experienced virtual reality in all of humanity's time on Earth, until now. With that said, VR sickness is really having an effect on users of gadgets like the Oculus Rift (just ask this guy on Reddit), and is really putting some people off on the idea of ever trying one of these headsets. In fact, VR sickness could be a potential factor in the market for virtual reality headsets.

The Power of the Nose

But, don't fret people, because researchers at Purdue University have found a possible cure to VR Sickness. Being called "a stroke of genius" by assistant professor David Whittinghill, virtual noses were placed on each screen, right where your nose should be in real life.

The claim is that virtual noses help a person feel grounded while in a simulation. The nose helps calibrate your brain, giving it something to help perceive movement, instead of your eyes just witnessing random things go by on a screen. "You are constantly seeing your own nose. You tune it out, but it's still there, perhaps giving you a frame of reference to help ground you." said David Whittinghill.

During the test, 41 volunteers were called in to play games on a simulator with a virtual nose and one without. All 41 of them were able to withstand a minute and half longer on the simulator with a nose before experiencing sickness. The funny thing is that none of these 41 volunteers were told of the nose, and no one was able to notice it. It was noted by Whittinghill that "subjects did not notice the nasum virtualis while they were playing the games, and they were incredulous when its presence was revealed to them later in debriefing.

How the minute and a half actually helps is left to your own interpretation, but Whittinghill calls it "huge improvement". For now we still have a long way to go for virtual reality, and although maybe noses do bring improvement, a minute and a half for most is usually not deemed as the greatest gaming experience ever

Published Mar. 27th 2015
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