Mayo Clinic Working to Stop VR Motion Sickness
There’s no possible way to deny the clout that virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive contain within itself to allow you to feel physically present in a not so physical world, however, there’s a single flaw that seems to knock it down a peg or two from its current appeal and presents a true obstacle to VR software developers: motion sickness. Apparently the Mayo Clinic has been busy trying to knock this symptom down for the past decade or so, and today they’re announcing the availability of the technology they’ve developed. It may be a bit troubling to wrap your head around the concept, but you have to admit, that it’s incredibly exhilarating.
Initially, let’s try to outline the reason so many of us are cursed to suffer motion sickness in VR and in other aspects of life. While it’s not as common as it was a few years ago with early Oculus Rift products, it definitely sets a limit on the kind of games and experiences being developed right now that some of us can take part in. VR sickness results from a foreign mix of optic and spatial nerves and when they miscombobulated they tend to screw with your whole system. I’ve made the mistake of associating it more with a war between what your eyes are seeing and what your grey matter thinks of it, however that’s not truly correct according to Mayo Clinic researchers.
We’re hearing a ton about VR needing to bring a top solid 90fps frame rate. Some neat advances have been utilized on the hardware side of VR technology such as Oculus’ Asynchronous Time Warp, which is a primo way of mentioning that they can generate extra frames when a game can’t maintain that desired 90fs hot spot. This helps reduce to stuttering and skipping, which also contributes to motion sickness.
But the motion sickness is actually being caused because of our pesky vestibular system, an intricate sensory system in our inner ear that helps to give us balance and spatial orientation becomes out of whack. When we walk our character through a room in a VR game without actually doing any walking ourselves, a mismatch happens because we don’t feel that motion shown in 3D space. Our brain immediately notices that discrepancy between what you’re seeing and what you’re doing. It’s the reason why you see a lot of early VR games and programs using “blinking” to transport a player from one spot to the next instead of actually walking them there. It’s the reason why, as of right now, we will never actually see a traditional war based game like Call of Duty or Destiny imported to VR technology.
The Mayo Clinic has patented a new technology called Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS), which synchronizes your inner ear to what a person is viewing. Using that Call of Duty scenario, imagine feeling the sensation of sprinting toward cover, of jumping up to a rooftop, or even something as extreme as jumping off that rooftop. What about a movie like Avatar where the viewer can actually feel the sensation of flight? Imagine what this could do for a VR roller coaster simulator like NoLimits 2, just as one existing example.
Jan Stepanek, M.D. and co-director of AMVRL mentions to us that “while this particular technology was licensed to vMocion for the media and entertainment industries, it’s rooted in medical research, and the potential medical applications for GVS are also very exciting.”
Stepanek proceeds to mention to us that GVS can help remove balance disorders like vertigo and improve our balance overall.