Friday, December 19, 2014

If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can solve the virtual reality vomit problem

Me? I’ve got enough reality-reality in my life to worry about without going out and larding on virtual reality (VR).

But for those who prefer their reality virtual, there is a problem: VR makes some folks sick.

Well, reality-reality can be pretty darned sickening, too.

The Taliban slaughters a bunch of school kids.

But even when I’m reading the racist, misogynist, just plain cretinous comments on I don’t tell to become dehydrated, get the sweats, and lose my cookies.

While most VR producers and aficionados have declared the motion-sickness, nausea, headache problems solved, others – brimming VR sickness bag in hand – insist that there are still many folks who suffer from what has to be one of the more peculiar 21st century maladies.

Joshua Brustein, who writes for Business Week, is one of them:

The unconvincing quality of the virtual experience is what makes people such as me take ill. If the eyes register one thing while the inner ear encounters something else, the result for some people is nausea. Much of the sickness comes from the lag that occurs with motion observed inside the VR headset: You move your head, and the virtual world takes a fraction of a second to catch up. (Source: Business Week)

Help may be on the way. It will be coming from Oculus, the VR gamer acquired by Facebook early this year. (To the tune of $2 billion. Remember when we used to think that $500 million, or even $1 billion was a lot of money?  Chump change!) Sometime within the next year or so, VR-ites will be able to buy new VR headsets, which does the trick:

Oculus has been adding sensors to its new headset to eliminate that lag just as it improves the software that converts the sensor input.

Make that does the trick, more or less. Brustein gave an Oculus Crescent Bay headset prototype a tryout. He found it an imperfect improvement:

After 10 minutes, I felt only the slightest bit dehydrated, with no need to heave. Count that as real progress for virtual reality.

Oculus CEO Brendan Uribe admits that:

…It will likely take years of consumer-level products, he says, before the motion sickness issue is completely solved.

I’m sure that there will be plenty of things that virtual reality will be great for: training simulations, especially in dangerous simulations; therapy; design. And maybe I’ll benefit from it some day. (Probably not the dangerous situation training; maybe in kitchen design; most likely in old geezer therapy.)

I will admit that I am pretty darned certain that I’ll never be a VR gamer.

I’m more of a Parcheesi kind of gal, I guess.

But on behalf of VR gamers everywhere, I sincerely hope they solve this problem for once and for all.

Surely, if we can put a man on the moon…

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