Tuesday 23 September 2014

Anatomy Of A Nauseating VR Experience

This weekend at Oculus's first Connect event in Los Angeles, I experienced amazing VR experiences on the developer kit 2 (DK2), Samsung Gear VR, and the brand new Crescent Bay feature prototype. I've participated in Oculus demos that have had varying success in creating a sense of presence, but none has caused the motion sickness or nausea I've heard others discuss... until now.

I had two different experiences today that left me feeling ill. Again, I want to point out that this was a rare experience, and the two demos caused the problem for two different reasons. However, the reaction was the same, and I thought it worth sharing.

For those that haven't used a virtual reality headset yet, there are some basic things you should be aware of. Presence is the feeling of being inside the virtual experience. There aren't best practices for moving in the virtual space yet, but the best demos I've tried map camera control to the positionally tracked head-mounted display.

This allows you to move your head closer to and farther from the scene, but also means that you are directly in control of looking around (including speed) with your natural head motion. Most of the first-person demos I've played are casually paced, and do not attempt to directly mimic first-person view in a PC or console game.

Simulation sickness is often caused when your brain isn't fully tricked into believing the motion you're seeing in front of you. Whether it's not smooth enough or simply doesn't feel natural, the feeling isn't much different than motion sickness.

The first demo to cause it today is a gorgeous game being developed in Unreal Engine 4. It's a first-person puzzle game with clever moments and poetry scraps that help progress the story. I was warned that frame rate was a problem, and the developer included a "comfort mode" that put quarter turns on the Xbox 360 bumpers.

For the first couple of minutes, I was fine. However, the camera is on the thumbstick. While I was able to look around at my environment, camera mapping was still relegated to the control pad. This created a disconnect between my head motion and the camera positioning. Strike one.

The frame rate then started to dip, I believe. It slid under 75 frames per second, which while not perceptible to my eye, was entirely obvious to my brain. The disconnect between visuals and brain processing widened. Strike two.

This game also features a jump button that was necessary to progress. Jumping in first-person is natural in 2D, but in VR, it caused my stomach to drop out. It didn't feel real to my brain, and that meant that I was perceiving a discrepancy between viewed and perceived motion. Strike three.

The results progressed like a wave. First, I started to feel queasy. Then it became full nausea. The scary moment was when I started to break out in cold sweats that made me even more aware of the ambient air, pulling me further out of the experience.

The pulled the ripcord and removed the headset and Rift. It was time for me to stop, or else. It took me about 20 minutes with a bottle of water and sitting still on a couch to recover. And then I did it to myself again with a different demo.

I decided to check out the Samsung Gear VR again, as a colleague told me there were more demos available than I saw earlier. I scrolled through many, including some immersive video segments featuring Marvel's The Avengers and Pacific Rim. I spent some time with Harmonix's very cool music visualizer. And I played a number of games, including endless runner Temple Run.

This last title has been tweaked for virtual reality and put in the first-person view. As you may be aware, Temple Run requires players to collect coins while jumping, dodging, and sliding around hazards. It's not terribly intense as a first-person experience, but I never want to try it again.

Jumping and sliding caused odd sensations that resulted in the same series of events as before. I started with slight nausea, before progressing to cold sweats, thus ending my session. Again, this was one of about twelve demos I tried on the impressive Gear VR.

As Oculus and others get closer to consumer hardware, more people are going to experience their limits. Bad virtual reality will happen from time to time. Plan to take some time to learn your limits, and stop using the device should you experience symptoms like the ones I mentioned.

Virtual reality has so much potential. Don't let yourself be driven off because you dove into the deep end before you knew if you were ready.

By www.GameInformer.com - Top Five

Read it the full article here

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