by firstname.lastname@example.org | Jun 25, 2022 | Development, Ideas, News, Research, Technology
As Virtual Reality (VR) continues to gain momentum toward wide-scale adoption both for individuals, and in the enterprise setting, one blemish remains constantly alongside it. That is the concept of people feeling the effects of motion sickness or vertigo while viewing VR content. And to be clear, we’re not talking about the feeling of Keanu Reeves “Whoa!” right after a VR headset is put on – that fades away almost immediately. We’re referring to the longer-lasting symptoms people refer to as motion sickness or vertigo.
Feelings of motion sickness in VR is one of those things where a little knowledge beforehand can be quite powerful. And with the right content executed in the right way can be minimized if not totally avoided by most, if not all, who put on a headset.
We’ve all seen the TikTok of Grandma wearing a VR headset and taking her first VR Roller Coaster ride. She’s screaming her head off while other family members gather around her in a state of paralysis brought on by acute belly-laughter. Sure, it’s all in good fun. And rest assured no Grandmas were harmed in the filming of said video. But this principal is key to understanding the first of three critical factors for those who may be susceptible to feelings of motion sickness while in VR.
FACTOR #1 : OUR BRAINS
The first reason people may experience it has to do with the VR content specifically and how the perception of that content is interpreted by our bodies – most importantly our brains. As is widely known our inner ear is responsible for our sense of balance, or if you prefer the 15-cent word-equilibrium. Aside from taking care of the all the automatic functions to keep us alive – you know like breathing – our brain does another pretty amazing trick. It takes the input from what our eyes see, and combines that with data from the inner ear.
These two things (and probably a bunch of other things) tell us that we’re moving or not and hence when to feel motion or not. So one of the main instances of motion sickness in VR is the Roller Coaster ride. Sure, this was once the low-hanging fruit for all the content producers to showcase VR as a medium. The simple fact that VR is so convincing visually plays into people’s negative reactions to situations like the roller coaster. It’s as simple as the eyes reporting they’re seeing movement to the brain. The brain then checks with the inner ear who reports there is no movement, and (insert John Madden BOOM) that discrepancy is what makes us feel woozy. So, if you’re a VR content creator and you’re producing content that creates this vestibular variance, just STOP! Don’t make me tell Grandma on you!
FACTOR #2 : FRAMES PER SECOND (FPS)
The second area where motion sickness may be noticed by some also falls directly at the feet of content creators once again. That is the notion of Frames Per Second or FPS. Remember those little flipbooks we used to sketch of the little stickman running? It’s sort of like that. Think of each of those little pages as a frame. Our TVs, computer monitors, and yes even VR hardware displays content much like a flipbook – in frames. VR hardware has limits for performance. And sure, it’s the content makers’ responsibility to find those and push against them. The trouble is that some content producers tend to play a little fast and loose with the issue of frame rate – oftentimes at the cost of the user. At times certain content may require more processing power than a device can muster. At that point the device or app has no choice but to drop a frame (i.e. show less little pages) at times OR simply crash which no one wants. The feeling of frame droppage can sometimes cause a person to feel wobbly or a little dizzy. Again, back to that pesky brain and our eyes’ need to constantly make sure we’re seeing everything correctly. When a frame or two is missing, whether we’re conscious of it or not, our brains notice. And it’s the brain’s need to fill in that gap that causes the negative feeling. On devices like the Meta Quest 2 for instance, a frame rate should never drop below 70 fps at an absolute minimum. Desirably, the lowest frame rate should really be 90 fps to be super safe.
FACTOR #3 : VR HARDWARE
The third reason motion sickness could be experienced by some is very simple and mechanical as it relates directly to the VR hardware itself. And that is tracking. Tracking is the term that corresponds to how the headset (and controllers) maintain their orientation in the virtual environment based on their location in real life. This is done in various ways. The HTC Vive Pro for instance uses external infrared emitting devices called “base stations” to create an IR field whereby the actual hardware uses its dimpled design to reflect the IR light and broadcast where the headset and controllers are. This is called outside-in tracking.
The Meta Quest 2 uses (4) cameras mounted in the headset to track that hardware. This is called inside-out tracking. Tracking has made a lot of advancement over the years but remains incredibly important to creating a good experience. If tracking is lost or interrupted, the image in the headset will stutter and/or freeze in such a way as to possibly create dizziness or disorientation. The good news about this is that it’s a very simple issue to address. First, don’t purchase or use a device with notorious for having tracking issues (not pointing fingers or mentioning names here). Second, know the ins and outs of what creates a positive tracking environment. So, if you’re using a Vive, make sure there’s no objects in the way of the base stations and they’re facing each other adequately. Or if you’re on Quest 2, make sure there’s plenty of light so the cameras can see. These best practices should eliminate about 90% of tracking issue-causing motion sickness while in VR.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE…
The last issue to discuss is less a cause of potential motion sickness in VR and more of a reality. It’s really about the people that are out there using VR. For whatever reason it would seem the older a person is, the more often it is they could experience these feelings. Data has shown during the aging process, people may fall prey to a condition like vertigo. Surprisingly it doesn’t have to do with the fluid in the ear solidifying over time as many have thought. Instead, it is brought on by circulatory changes in the very small blood vessels in the ear. This explains why your 10-year old nephew can spend about 6.5 hours playing Gorilla Tag without a break. But if you’re a person that is affect by actual vertigo, you’re going to know that and subsequently VR may not be a good fit. Second, there is a certain portion of the population that just can’t do VR comfortably. Period. It’s just that simple. These are people that for varying reasons simply cannot participate without having these negative feelings. Now, is this a large segment of the population? Absolutely not. It’s certainly not a large enough segment to deter the exciting technology from widespread adoption. It’s closer to SCUBA diving. There is a certain percentage of people who simply are not able to equalize their ears versus the water pressure (I know! Ears again right?!). But hey, maybe they could SCUBA in VR! Whoa, that’s Meta concept! (See what I did there?)
by visionthree | Sep 25, 2017 | Development, Ideas, Projects
Hundreds of millions of customers will be able to use AR for the first time, so we're bringing it to mainstream. We're taking the complex and making it simple … we want everybody to be able to use AR.
At their 2017 keynote last week, Apple revealed the newest iterations of their flagship products.
The highly anticipated iPhone X boasts a “new generation” of iPhone. It is equipped with two cameras, creating Augmented Reality opportunities previously unheard of in a consumer-marketed handheld device.
In addition to new hardware, Apple is betting big on the new ARKit (pronounced “A.R. kit”) software, which will be integrated into new devices and the newest iOS update. Developers are already releasing impressive demos that show off this powerful software, even on devices that are not equipped with the camera/sensor powerhouse combo of the iPhone X.
With the introduction of such powerful AR capabilities to a consumer-marketed device, we predict that more industries will be utilizing AR to customize solutions for far wider-reaching audiences. From training to sales, new opportunities are appearing for companies to showcase their potential on a much broader scale.
VisionThree is excited to continue to tap into this new frontier of AR technology. We’ve already seen success with iPad applications featuring AR technology as a tool for visualizing realistic architecture and building components.
We have also seen success with sales applications that showcase AR technology to allow customers to visualize products and solutions in a physical, more personal way.
The robust new hardware of the iPhone X offers better, faster AR capabilities, and opens a world of new opportunities for VisionThree to offer more complex solutions in an ever increasingly techno-centric culture.
Apple’s widespread release of ARKit in iOS 11 means that AR software will be in the hands of millions of people in the most accessible means yet. And with Google hot on Apple’s heels with their own software, ARCore, we here at V3 are excited to see and participate in the growth of this platform as developers (like us!) tap into its potential.
Interested in getting a private demo of our AR work? Call or email us (email@example.com) to schedule your own AR experience soon!
by visionthree | Apr 12, 2016 | Ideas, Technology
World-changing technologies often begin life as the stuff of sci-fi novels. Children grow up reading about and watching imaginary heroes use fantastic inventions to solve impossible problems.
Some of those children grow up dreaming of making those technologies real. The brightest of these achieve some level of success. Their early prototypes are enough to hint at a coming future, but they reveal the difficult real-world challenges that keep them from being useful to the everyday person.
So the dream sleeps, waiting for its challenges to become solvable. Most people forget about it. Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, it becomes real again. And we slowly and collectively realize the same thing:
Technology enthusiasts are familiar with the so-called “hype cycle.” Analysts such as Gartner go so far as to map it out. Pay particular attention to where they consider Virtual Reality (VR) to land on this hype cycle.
Gartner 2015 Tech Hype Chart
VisionThree has more than a few geeky dreamers under its roof, myself included. Over the last few years, we’ve experimented with each major VR hardware prototype that became available, and our firsthand experience agrees with Gartner’s assessment: on the wings of cheap and pervasive mobile technology, Virtual Reality has arrived, and it’s a powerful communication tool.
Virtual Reality is a general term for immersive display and input technology that creates the feeling of being present in a computer-generated place.
HTC Vive shown on CNBC’s Closing Bell
Apps as we know them exist on screens. In VR, the app is a space you can visit. This has immediate and obvious benefits for fields like architecture, education and sales, but is also highly useful for demonstrating physical objects or places that would otherwise be limited by real-world constraints or resources.
Need to give a surgery patient a tour of their own heart? To inspect a scale model of a new building, trying out new furniture and scribbling review notes on the walls? How about learning to disassemble and reassemble a luxury car? Or maybe you’d just like to play tennis with a friend from overseas, on the moon?
Simply put, VR can do for physical places and objects what the internet did for storefronts. The key is what we call “presence.” Presence is the feeling that you are present in a virtual space, when you stop thinking about the technology and your mind engages with the content and place. It’s when your brain stops asking “where am I?” and starts asking “what happens here?” When a stunning virtual environment meets the power of custom app development, the possibilities are near endless.
WON'T IT MAKE ME FEEL SICK?
It used to until very recently, and it’s a very common fear. It’s like this: VR’s talent is to make cost-prohibitive experiences viable. So when VR came back on the scene a few years ago, we did the logical thing and built our own personal roller coasters. It turns out that virtual coasters have similar effects on people to the real ones.
Over the last couple of years, we learned something that should have been obvious: VR needs to be gentle to people. Whether or not someone feels sick after using VR has everything to do with what they were doing in it.
When your body’s sense of balance disagrees with what your eyes see, you feel sick. Anyone who has been inside a ship in choppy seas will agree. The two keys to avoiding nausea in VR are tracking hardware that locates your head faster than you can, and software that never tricks the mind into expecting to feel forces it can’t deliver on. Forces like the ones you’d feel on a roller coaster, for example.
We have to make sure that the VR app doesn’t try to convince you that your body is moving in a way that, in reality, it isn’t. With gentle, well-designed content and the latest and greatest hardware, VR doesn’t make people sick. To begin to unlock its true potential, enthusiastic geeks (like me) had to learn restraint.
All of these lessons and some incredible new consumer hardware have created the possibility to walk freely around a physical room and interact with virtual objects using your hands. To create, learn, simulate, explore and experience firsthand.
Videos can’t truly do this technology justice; you have to experience it firsthand to truly understand it.
It can be a little intimidating to put the visor on for the first time, but nearly everyone is glad they did. And experiencing something in a well-designed VR environment is a fast-track to a powerful memory – one that can truly connect your audience with your product or service. Experiences matter here at VisionThree, and VR is poised to redefine what we expect a digital experience to be.
In future posts we’ll dive deeper into VR applications, available hardware and content styles. This introductory overview has opened your mind, and your eyes, to what’s possible in the future.
Want to know more about VR, or see a live demo? We’d love to show you how magical these experiences can truly be. Contact us here to get started!
Nate Logan is the Technical Director at VisionThree. He’s responsible for architecting the experiences we create, along with exploring new technology and making sure it works.