In General, Virtual Reality

Virtual reality isn’t a new concept, in fact, the earliest form of VR was created in 1957, but it was quite different from the VR we have become familiar with today. The popularity of Virtual Reality has grown a lot in recent years, in part because the gaming industry is focusing a lot of their energy on creating new game experiences. Just like with any technological advancement, with growth comes the obstacles. Even though Virtual Reality is mainly being used in the gaming industry at the moment, there are endless possibilities for the usage of VR in many other industries. Virtual Reality in Architecture is becoming a popular form of visualization not just through the design process but also in the presentation of new projects. Enscape, for example, creates wonderful virtual reality walkthroughs, but what happens when your client is susceptible to motion sickness? To prevent it from happening, you also need to know why it can happen.

Why Does Motion Sickness Occur?

When using any kind of Virtual Reality headsets, if one becomes sick while doing so, then that is actually called Virtual Reality Sickness. What causes Virtual Reality sickness is still being studied but it’s called motion sickness quite often because the root of the problem may be the same, which is that the brain is being overloaded with different signals.

What’s Happening in Your Brain

It’s getting lost and confused and here’s why:

  • Your eyes are sending one kind of signal, while the ears send another and your brain gets confused with what to do with the information
  • Essentially your eyes are telling your brain that you are not standing still but in movement, but the balancing system within your inner ear is saying “NO! We are standing still!”
  • If there’s any kind of lag when looking through the VR headset, this will also cause someone to get motion sickness.
  • The images are meant to immerse you in the most realistic surroundings possible, and lagging will make your brain and other systems question what’s going on.

Have you ever gotten sick while trying to read in a moving vehicle? Your eyes are locked onto the words, which your brain processes as you standing still, but the bumps in the road and general movement of the car are telling it a different story. How does one prevent motion sickness?

Preventing Virtual Reality Sickness

Tune DOWN the speed and tune UP the smoothing for better navigation and lessen the possibility of sickness

When using virtual reality to demonstrate your designs to clients, the idea is to give them the most immersive experience that you possibly can. This means you need to make it a comfortable experience as well. Before you even consider using VR with a client, you might want to ask if they are prone to motion sickness. If the answer is yes, you may want to use another route with this client. Enscape allows you to also just show beautiful 3D renderings without the VR. While VR is a great experience, it might not be for everyone. By asking the client, you’re taking into consideration that the client may not be comfortable with Virtual Reality. If they are comfortable to experience it but have never used VR before then try the following:

  • Have the client take a seat for the VR presentation if possible. This will minimize the possibility of illness.
  • Go slow. Teach the client how to move slowly in the VR demonstration, quick movements will not help. With Enscape you can play around with the input settings to get the best movement to prevent sickness.
  • If the client says there seems to be an issue with the image then stop the presentation immediately, the main reason people get virtual reality sickness is when the frames do not load fast enough, any glitch and it’s a recipe for disaster

Update: Thanks to Alex Cunningham for this tip: You can also try the teleport locomotion technique. This simply requires the client to point to the location where they would like to move to in the virtual world and they will be teleported there.

When All Else Fails…

These things should help your clients stay in tip-top shape, but if for some reason they do become ill, then there’s something you can try that may help them. Have ginger candies or ginger tea on hand. Ginger is known to calm the stomach, so if a client feels queasy, then offer them the remedy. You can also have peppermint tea as a second option, in case the first option isn’t favorable. The idea is to make the experience as comfortable as humanly possible, and these two teas will bring back some comfort if the client does become a bit nauseous. Have them available or ready to be poured in these situations. Even if a client says they have used Virtual Reality before, you never know how a new experience will make them feel.

Currently, researchers at Columbia University believe they may have figured out a way to combat virtual reality sickness but at the moment it would require some manipulation of the field of view which may lose some of the compelling aspects that VR has to offer. Scientists will continue to search for a way to make Virtual Reality more comfortable for all.  For now, all you can do for your clients is preventative measures to ensure a comfortable VR experience. They will appreciate it in the end if you are concerned for their health but also you want them to leave the presentation loving the design. Sickness could put a damper on that. Follow these tips and watch everyone’s experience with VR become a great one!