Virtual Reality make you feel sick? Try adding a nose

vr nasum virtualis virtual nose
Sick of virtual reality? You’re not alone.

Many people are overcome by vertigo and nausea after just a few minutes of exploring virtual worlds, despite recent advances in motion accuracy and lag reduction. Indeed, mitigating motion sickness is one of the biggest challenges currently facing VR engineers. Purdue scientists have found one potential solution, hiding right in front of us all along: a nose.

Motion sickness is generally caused by a disparity between what you see and what you feel. When you’re a passenger in a moving car, for example, your inner ear senses movement, but with the car’s static interior filling most of your vision, your eyes tell your brain that you’re standing still. Our bodies don’t like to be confused like that, and that dissonance results in nausea.

Games with fixed visual reference points, such as a spaceship’s cockpit, have been anecdotally shown to reduce simulator sickness. “But you can’t have a cockpit in every VR simulation,” explained David Whittinghill, an assistant professor of Computer Graphics Technology at Purdue University. Whittinghill’s research team was tackling the problem of simulator sickness, when undergraduate Bradley Ziegler suggested inserting a virtual nose into the visual field.

“It was a stroke of genius,” said Whittinghill. “You are constantly seeing your own nose. You tune it out, but it’s still there, perhaps giving you a frame of reference to help ground you.”

In a study presented earlier this year at Game Developers Conference, Whittinghill’s team found that the virtual nose, or “nasum virtualis,” consistently reduces simulator sickness for most people. Forty-one test subjects used numerous VR applications with varying levels of motion intensity. Subjects in the languid Tuscan Villa simulation were able to play an average of 94.2 seconds longer before feeling any signs of sickness. Subjects in a roller coaster simulation could go for another 2.2 seconds on average.

Researchers relied on both self-reporting and electro-dermal activity sensors (which measure skin conductivity) to gauge when sickness strikes. The delay of when nausea sets in was consistent across both measures.

“The roller coaster demo is short, but it’s very intense at times, spinning upside down, jumping across chasms, plunging fully vertical, so people can’t do it very long under the best of circumstances,” Whittinghill said. “We had a reliable increase of 2 seconds, and it was a very clear trend. For the Tuscany demo it takes more time, but eventually you start getting queasy, and 94 seconds is a huge improvement.”

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the study is that most subjects, who were not told about the experiment’s parameters beforehand, didn’t even notice that the nose was there at all. “Surprisingly, subjects did not notice the nasum virtualis while they were playing the games, and they were incredulous when its presence was revealed to them later in debriefings.”

Research is still ongoing, because they do not yet have a firm theory on why the nasum virtualis works. “Our suspicion is that you have this stable object that your body is accustomed to tuning out, but it’s still there and your sensory system knows it,” speculated Whittinghill. “Our long-term goal is to create a fully predictive model of simulator sickness that will allow us to predict, given a specific set of perceptual and individual inputs, what level of simulator sickness one can expect.”

Another approach to solving the simulator sickness problem is to just provide physical motion to match what’s happening in the simulation. Roto is a motorized chair platform currently on Kickstarter, designed to match in-game movement with physical motion, creating greater immersion and mitigating nausea. Alternatively, HTC and Valve’s recently revealed system side-steps the issue entirely by limiting your movement to an actual, physical space, removing the experiential dissonance.

Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Gaming

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Gaming

Immerse yourself in a new universe with these incredible PSVR games

The PSVR has surpassed expectations and along with it comes an incredible catalog of games. There's plenty of amazing experiences to be had so we've put together a list of the best PSVR games available today.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.
Gaming

Console wars are so last-gen. Check out all the games that support crossplay

Crossplay is still in its infancy, but a growing number of games support online multiplayer between competing platforms. Here's a list of all games that support console crossplay.
Gaming

Want to trick out your PlayStation 4? These themes will get you started

Personalize your gaming experience with some of our favorite themes for the PlayStation 4, including free, paid, static, and dynamic options.
Gaming

‘Mortal Kombat 11’ is even gorier and crazier than we expected

NetherRealm Studios unveiled Mortal Kombat 11 on January 17 and the game looks to be just as gory and over the top as fans have come to expect. Former MMA fighter Ronda Rousey will appear as Sonya Blade.
Gaming

Play your games whenever you want with a MicroSD card for your Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch uses cartridge-based games, but its internal storage may fill up quicker than you would think. Here's what you should consider when picking out a MicroSD card to expand your Switch's storage capacity.
Gaming

Get your pilot skills up to snuff for this week's 'Fortnite' challenge guide

The Fortnite season 7, week 7 challenges are now available. The major challenge this week requires you to visit all the Fortnite expedition outposts in the game and we walk you through how to get to each.
Gaming

Get extra life with our tips and tricks for 'New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe'

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a much more difficult game than you'd believe based on its adorable art style and 2D perspective. Here's how you can master the game's toughest challenges.
Gaming

Find all of the secret exits and world skips in 'New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe'

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe has two distinct Mario experiences in one package. In this guide, we'll show you how to find all of the secret exits in New Super Mario Bros. U, that lead to hidden levels and let you skip worlds.
Gaming

Find all of the secret exits and world skips in 'New Super Luigi U Deluxe'

Just like all other 2D Mario games, New Super Mario Bros. Deluxe includes secret exits and world skips. In this guide, we'll show you how to get to all 12 secret exits in New Super Luigi U.
Gaming

For Netflix, ‘Fortnite’ on YouTube is a bigger threat than HBO

In a letter to shareholders, Netflix explained that it views the video game Fortnite as bigger competition than HBO, with YouTube videos of the game drawing viewers away from the streaming platform.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.