Why Does VR Make People Feel Sick?

Virtual reality (VR) is a relatively new technology and like anything new, most people who try it are doing so for the first time.

Many people enjoy the experience. Unfortunately, there is also a common side effect; a slight feeling of nausea.

It doesn’t happen to everyone. But it does happen enough that more manufacturers should start to talk about it more.

The good news is that, in most cases, it’s possible to stop it happening. So, why does it happen? And more importantly, what can you do about it?

Why Does VR Make People Feel Sick?

virtual reality experience

Most experts believe that VR sickness is the result of a sensory disconnect. This is similar to what happens when people get motion sickness.

Motion sickness is typically associated with being in a moving vehicle. But nausea can occur in any situation where there’s a disconnect between what our eyes are seeing and what our body is experiencing.

VR is a perfect example of this. When you put on a headset, your eyes might find that the world around you is suddenly moving. Your ears, however, are still telling your brain that everything is perfectly still.

While nausea is the primary symptom, other potential symptoms include sweating, fatigue, eye strain, and disorientation.

Does VR Make Everybody Feel Sick?

virtual reality outside

VR sickness is a common experience, but it’s not something that affects everybody.

At this time, there’s no definitive statistic that specifically focuses on how many people get sick after using VR.

If you’ve ever experienced common symptoms motion sickness, it’s possible that you might encounter the same thing when you try a VR headset. Other factors may come into play, such as your health status.

Does VR Sickness Go Away?

If you feel sick the first time you try VR, this doesn’t mean that it will always happen.

Many people find that the problem eventually goes away. Unfortunately, a lot of people quit before this happens.

In the short term, there are ways to minimize symptoms—as we will discuss later on in this article. But in many cases, the most effective remedy is exposure; you simply need to give your body time to adjust to the new experience.

Are Some Headsets Worse Than Others?

virtual reality screen

While the presence of VR sickness is undeniable, experts remain divided about whether or not it’s a problem that can be solved.

VR has come a long way in recent years, but there are still a few problems which might be making matters worse.

Latency issues, for example, aren’t helping the situation. Latency refers to the delay between the user doing something and the app responding. The longer the delay, the greater the disconnect between what our brains expect and what we actually see.

The biggest cause of latency issues in VR is the screen. VR headsets are getting faster with many now capable of 144 hertz (Hz). But its believed that with even lower latency in the future, incidents of nausea may be reduced.

Headset sizing is another potential issue. Interpupillary Distance (IPD) is the distance between a persons pupils. The IPD on VR headsets can typically be adjusted but only to a limited extent.

This means that if you have a particularly long or short IPD, a VR headset won’t fit you perfectly and this can increase the likelihood of you experiencing nausea.

How to Prevent Sickness When Using VR

virtual reality rectangles

If you feel sick while trying VR, there are a number of things that you can do to both minimize the problem and even make it go away completely. Below, you’ll find a list of potential solutions to try out.

1. Take a Break Immediately

If you start to feel sick, don’t try to work your way through it. The more you do so, the more your body will begin to associate the headset with feeling uncomfortable. Instead, take a step back and let your body relax.

2. Increase Air Circulation

Most people who get motion sickness often complain about feeling hot and starting to sweat. Always use the headset in a cool room with either an open window or fan. This applies regardless of how much experience you have with VR.

3. Start Slowly

Give your body time to adjust to VR. Try using the headset for five minutes at a time and work your way up from there. After repeated sessions, you should start to build a tolerance.

4. Try Sitting Down

Motion sickness is generally made worse the more you move. Try using the headset while sitting down the first few times. Keeping your body in contact with something solid, such as a floor, is also likely to help with feelings of disorientation.

5. Try an Easier App

The specific app that you use can also play a factor. Choose something that requires minimal movement. Anything that encourages you to move particularly fast should be avoided—at least to begin with. Over time, you can move up to the more intense titles.

6. Lower the Brightness

Sometimes, lowering the brightness can help. This will slightly reduce the amount of sensory input that your brain is suddenly trying to comprehend.

7. Avoid Lagging

If you notice lagging or glitches, stop using the headset immediately. This can make just about any VR user feel sick. Lagging can generally be fixed by resetting the app but in rare cases, it may mean that there’s something wrong with your headset.

8. Check the Fit

If the headset is even slightly off, you may find that this will make things worse. Make sure that it fits perfectly, and that the lens provides a clear picture. VR headsets generally need to be adjusted slightly every time a new person puts them on.

Don’t Be Afraid to Try VR

There are many reasons not to try VR. It’s expensive, you can fall over, and it’s so new that there are still a few bugs that need to be ironed out.

If you’re worried about nausea, however, this doesn’t need to be a reason to forego the technology. Some people won’t experience it, and for those that do, the ideas in this article should help to make sure that it’s only temporary problem.

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