Cybersickness could spell an early death for the metaverse and virtual reality

Luis Eduardo Garrido couldn’t wait to test out his colleague’s latest creation. Garrido, psychology and methodology researcher Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra In the Dominican Republic, he spent two hours between his university campuses trying out a virtual reality experience designed to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder and various types of phobias. But minutes after putting on the headset, he could tell something was wrong.

“I started to feel bad,” Garrido told The Daily Beast. He was having trouble with dizziness and nausea. He tried to move on, but eventually had to stop the simulation almost as soon as it started. “Honestly, I don’t think I could last five minutes trying out the application,” he said.

Garrido contracted cyber sickness, a form of motion sickness that can affect users of VR technology. It was so severe that he worried about his ability to drive home, and it took him hours to recover from the five-minute simulation. Although motion sickness has afflicted humans for thousands of yearsCyber ​​sickness is a very new condition. While this means that many of its causes and symptoms are understood, other fundamental questions – such as how common cybersickness is, and whether there are ways to prevent it completely – are just beginning to be studied.

After Garrido’s experience, a colleague told him that only 2 percent of people experience cyberbullying. But in a presentation to prospective students, Garrido observed that volunteers from the audience walked in front of an auditorium to demonstrate a VR headset—only to return to their seats.

“I could see from afar that they were getting sweaty and feeling uncomfortable,” he recalled. “I told myself, ‘Maybe I’m not alone.'”

As companies like Meta (nee Facebook) bet big Whether augmented reality and virtual reality technology will go mainstream, the tech industry is still trying to figure out how to better recruit users to the metaverse, and get them to be there once. But experts worry that cybersickness could derail these plans for good unless developers find some solution soon.

,Garrido watched as volunteers from the audience walked in front of an auditorium to demonstrate a VR headset – only to return to their seats.,

The issue is actually something of a catch-22: To make VR more accessible and affordable, companies are miniaturizing devices and running them on less powerful processors. But these changes offer dazzling graphics – which inevitably make more people experience cybersickness.

Plus, a growing body of research shows that cyber-sickness is much more widespread than previously thought—perhaps afflicting more than half of all potential users. Proponents of the “headset in every home” vision for VR should make sure first-timers don’t miss out on the experience and lose their lunch. A buggy beta hits differently when it’s your health and comfort on the line. And depending on how long a person’s effects of cybersickness last, VR technology can be not only inconvenient for them, but virtually unusable.

“If people have this type of bad experience with something, they’re not going to try it again,” Garrido said.

Thanks for the VR Charles Oman Earth as seen from the International Space Station. he has seen Emmy nominated documentary black while traveling, which immerses viewers in the history of race relations and the restricted movement for Black Americans, gives viewers a first glimpse into what Black experiences are like using VR. But he wishes he could share these experiences and VR headsets with his wife.

“She wouldn’t wear the damn thing,” he told The Daily Beast. “She’s susceptible to all kinds of motion sickness, and she doesn’t like dizziness and uncertainty about orientation. And so overcoming that hump, for her—she has better things to do. I think A lot of people are like that.”

If anyone could offer a foolproof solution to motion sickness, it would be Oman: he has studied motion sickness at MIT for 50 years, and has characterized the region first by position in the ocean, then in space, and now in the metaverse. have seen to deal with.

Sickness, space sickness, and cyber sickness are all major hydra of the same hydra, which are caused by a person’s brain. Receives unexpected and conflicting signals, According to Oman, whenever the head moves, the brain anticipates how the inner ear, eyes and other points of the body will respond and uses the feedback to rebalance. A mismatch between what the brain expects and what it receives produces symptoms of dizziness, nausea, cold sweats, pale skin and fatigue. But what does this look like in practice?

an example of This mismatch happened to the Roman philosopher Seneca, which he described in a letter written in the first century. As he boarded a rocky ship in the Bay of Naples, his eyes signaled to him that he was immobile while his body told his brain otherwise. Distressed he asked the captain of the ship to drop him wherever he was, later Writing “I was suffering too severely to even think about the danger, because a lingering sea ailment that gave no relief was terrifying.” (He ended up diving off the boat and swimming ashore.)

,Sickness, space sickness, and cybersickness are all major hydra, which occur when a person’s brain receives unexpected and conflicting signals.,

Before NASA became interested in motion sickness in the 1970s, belly binders and the ludicrous diet were seen as potential cures. Since then, researchers have developed tried-and-true ways to prevent the condition – such as medication that The mismatch weakens the signals received by the brain, and exercises that re-align your body’s response systems (for example, looking at the windshield of a car instead of down at the phone).

VR developers have taken some cues from these solutions. some have introduced a Artificial “horizon” in VR video It appears to reduce the severity of motion sickness – but unfortunately does not eliminate it completely. Most guidance recommends taking a break of 10 to 15 minutes every half hour to delay the onset of cybersickness, but these numbers have not been rigorously tested. For some, like Garrido, a short break isn’t enough time to recover. But was he an outsider?

Once Garrido saw what happened in demonstrations to potential students, he decided to conduct a study to see how common cyber-sickness really was. Scouring the literature, they didn’t find a clear answer because of the size of most studies: “Many enroll 15, 20, 25 people,” he said. “Since I’m a math person, I knew there were all kinds of problems with these studies.” With small sample sizes, there is a chance that enrolled participants do not give a complete picture of the effects of the condition.

So Garrido and his team decided to run their own study, recruiting 92 people to try the same VR program that made them sick before. In the VR experience, participants explored a 3D kitchen and public restroom, two environments commonly used in OCD therapy. He navigated with a joystick for about 10 minutes, a method of “transportation” that has fallen out of favor in the development of VR games in favor of simple point-and-click teleporting, like the Google Maps ‘Street View’. (Garido’s critics may argue that the study is using obsolete technology, although it should be noted in flight simulators and other applications that Want to increase user immersion Would still use a joystick, as it more closely mimics natural motion.)

The exact opposite of the 2 percent estimate Garrido was told, the results of his study, published earlier this yearindicated that more than 65 percent of people experienced symptoms of cybersickness, and more than a third of these people experienced severe symptoms. Twenty-two participants decided to stop the simulation before 10 minutes.

These results should be related to developers of other VR applications, Garrido said, since the only movement in the simulation came from the users’ own actions (e.g., as opposed to a roller coaster or flight experience). The experiences were designed to be tame.

“You can think of our study as a baseline because our environments do nothing to cause cyber-sickness,” he said. “The general trend is that as time goes on, people will get worse. You need to know that if you’re planning on immersion for 20 minutes or more.”

Cybersickness doesn’t just arise from the control of the VR experience. It can be built into the fabric of hardware (personal headsets) and software (experiences, apps and simulations). Kyle Ringzenberg, AR and VR developer and co-founder of software company Dimension X, said there are two major sensory conflicts that lead to cyber-illness in VR. The first is the same brain-body mismatch that leads to car and sea sickness, but the second is a different physiological response—and potentially even harder to fix. When we look at the world in front of us, our eyes automatically focus on an object based on its perceived distance. A VR headset projects images of a set distance from a viewer, but when a virtual object is seen up close, it can appear blurry because the person’s eyes are trying to focus on it as if it were actually there. was in

Combining these two forms of cyber sickness can cause headaches for users and developers alike.

,If my iPhone doesn’t load a page right away, I can grumble about it, but that’s the end of it. If my VR app stammers on me, I could be physically ill. It keeps people away from this technology.,

, Kyle Ringzenberg, Dimension X

“If my iPhone doesn’t load a page right away, I can grumble about it, but that’s the end of it,” Ringzenberg told The Daily Beast. “If my VR app stammers on me, I could be physically ill. It keeps people away from this technology.”

For the first time VR developers can force the user to run around a scene independent of their physical motion, without knowing any better. Ringzenberg said they may also be unaware of some other best practices for reducing cybersickness, such as reducing the lag to less than 20 milliseconds or increasing the frame rate to 90 frames per second. On the other hand, there is no easy solution for another form of cyber ailment, called the verification-dwelling conflict.

There are some signs that developers are taking cybersickness seriously, whether because of a renewed appreciation for the pervasiveness of the situation, or because updates to the technology finally allow them to deal with some of the tools’ initial shortcomings.

“Many people don’t realize how much progress has been made in the last four or five years,” Oman said. Predictive head tracking to reduce sensory conflict a person may feel is “not finished” [cybersickness]But it has really, really helped,” he said.

But as of late there is a lot of wrong rhetoric being made by the industry leaders. Display of the first Quest headset made by Oculus (which is owned by Meta). refreshed at the rate of 72 frames per secondLow enough to cause dizziness and nausea. It’s hard to predict why the company would have chosen this display, Ringzenberg said, but it’s easy to imagine that some first-time users trying the Quest and turning off VR completely because of the poor experience .

Undoubtedly, this has been instrumental in the development of VR that works for the industry to address the root causes of cyber sickness for all; However, playing the blame game by criticizing individual apps and headsets for faulty hardware or incompatible, non-adaptive gameplay misses the big picture. Cybersickness is a medical condition affecting users today. Without far-reaching improvements in the pipeline, this downright nasty side effect threatens to sideline VR for some niche communities, and ultimately, spell doom for the metaverse.

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