Microsoft researcher stops VR motion sickness by stuffing a headset full of LED lights

Ever since virtual reality headsets started landing in users’ homes and on our test bench, we’ve been dealing with some of the issues that come with new technology. The biggest by far has been the motion sickness caused by a disassociation between moving on screen, and sitting in a stationary chair. That’s made worse by the limited field of view, which makes it feel like you’re viewing the virtual world through a pair of glasses. Fortunately, Microsoft may have come up with a novel solution for both, and all it takes is a few LEDs, according to a study from Microsoft researcher Robert Xiao and Carnegie Mellon PHd candidate Hrvoje Benko.

The special HMD add-on, known for now as SparseLightVR, works by extending your peripheral vision, and leverages a known fact about human eyes that VR researchers have been paying more attention to lately. Your eyes, in general, see images at much higher clarity and definition at the very center, with less exact focus nearing the edges of your peripheral vision. The researchers take advantage of that by strapping a grid of LEDs around the inside of the headset to “render” details outside of the main view. The LEDs are covered with a diffusion film that blurs them together, and lit in response to the content shown by the headset.

The first, and the intended goal of the researchers, was to effectively increase each HMD’s field of view. It worked, as users were asked to identify targets on a grid first with an artificially limited 50 degree field of view, then with a standard Oculus DK2, which has a 90 degree FOV, and finally with the SparseLightVR version of the DK2, which brings the total field of view up to 170 degrees. Users were much faster at turning to point at targets with SparseLightVR. But more surprising was what happened when they started messing with the light and pattern of the colored LEDs.

After trying a handful of different alternate screen patterns on the peripheral display, the team found that 11 of 14 participants preferred what they called “peripheral countervection,” where patterns were displayed that run opposite to the movement caused by turning or walking with a controller. This sort of reverse movement helped reduce dizziness and motion sickness, even though the researchers believed it might do just the opposite.

Also of note is Microsoft’s apparent attempts at modding a GearVR into an augmented reality headset. It uses a similar principle as the Meta 2, with the screen above and a mirror below to reflect the picture in front of the wearer’s eyes. This version has also been equipped with SparseLightVR, and the effect adds 90 degrees to the headset’s effective field of view.

If we’re learning anything from these VR experiments, it’s that we know shockingly little about exactly how the eye works, and how it renders images and movement in the brain. If anything, the work these researchers are doing is leading us a more fundamental understanding of the mind. It’s also a big step forward for VR headsets, which have been limited by the technology required for high resolution displays and lightning fast tracking. Whether this particular project will ever show up in other VR headsets remains to be seen, but it’s certainly an interesting workaround.

Mobile

From the road to your wrist, see how Android has evolved over the past 10 years

Android started out as just a mobile operating system, but 10 years in it's pretty much everywhere. Check out our round-up of all the different Android variations that have cropped up so far, and what might be coming in the future.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.
News

Listen up! White noise device may make VR motion sickness a thing of the past

A simple device that sends white noise vibrations to the inner ear could be all it takes to fix the long-running problem of nausea in virtual reality. The developers are now seeking FDA approval.
Smart Home

These wireless security cameras are a wire-free way to protect your home

Home security cameras can give you piece of mind, but if they have wires, are limited in where you can put them. We've rounded up the best battery-operated home security cameras to give you flexibility along with your security.
Mobile

The Galaxy S10 may be announced before MWC, sell for up to $1,750

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Computing

Oculus VR could upgrade the Rift with a new display in 2019

Oculus could be set to release a new version of its Rift headset in 2019, but it will be more of a modest upgrade than a true sequel. The Rift S, as its purportedly called, will have a new display, and inside-out tracking.
Mobile

Google awarded patent for using eye tracking to detect expressions in VR

Google was awarded a patent that involves using eye tracking to infer facial expressions using machine learning in virtual reality. The tech could help make virtual reality a whole lot more immersive than it already is.
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

Prototype Valve VR headset leaked: HTC Vive challenger confirmed?

Leaked images revealed that a Valve VR headset is in development, even amid Valve's partnership with HTC for the HTC Vive. Sources confirmed the device, which may be bundled with a Half-Life VR game.
Virtual Reality

Is the Vive Pro better than the original Vive? Our answer might surprise you

HTC Vive vs. Vive Pro, which comes out on top? That's the subject of our latest comparison, which looks at everything from tracking solutions, to controllers, and the brand new headset that could set a new standard for VR.
Gaming

The best HTC Vive games available today

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.
Computing

A Google patent shows a way to make VR even more immersive

Virtual reality can be a really immersive experience, but it does sometimes it does have boundaries. Google has addressed this problem by patenting shoes with a flexible region on the bottom.
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

Dive head first into the best experiences available now on the Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift brought back virtual reality and put a modern twist to it. Grab your Touch Controllers, put on your VR headset, and jump into the fun with some of the best Oculus Rift games available now.