Eric-JanszenVR on exercise bikes like VirZOOM is going to be AMAZING… for some people, and I may not be one of those people. Movement within virtual environments is a hard problem, and while VirZOOM addresses some of the challenges of VR locomotion, people who are sensitive to simulator sickness will likely still have issues with some of the games developed by VirZOOM.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the physical action of moving my legs was enough activity to trick my mind into making some types of VR locomotion a more comfortable experience. However, there were still a number of other game design decisions that triggered motion sickness in me including tilting the horizon line, lots of vection and optical flow, accelerating and decelerating, and moving up and down hills.

I had a chance to up with founder Eric Janszen at GDC after going through their different game prototype demos to hear more about their design intention, how they were integrating interval training within their gameplay design, and some of their future plans of integrating more mobile VR headsets.

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While I don’t think that VirZOOM can claim to have completely solved the VR locomotion problem, I was pleased to see that some VR locomotion schemes were indeed more comfortable than using a Xbox controller alone. Flying through the air on a Pegasus was one of the most comfortable experiences because there wasn’t a lot of optical flow. I believe that I did feel some improvements from being able to peddle, and I think that there’s more that can done from a VR design perspective to make it a more comfortable experience. I’ll be covering more of those specifics in an upcoming interview with Jason Jerald about motion sickness research and VR design principles to minimize it.

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But it’s also possible that VR enthusiasts will have to self select into two different groups: those who can enjoy experiences with intense movement, and those who can’t.

Eric Janszen says that if you get motion sickness while reading in a car, then there’s a good chance that you’ll be susceptible to motion sickness in VR. He’s also sick of hearing about VR sickness as evidenced by a recent tweet to an article by Jon Peddie titled “I’m sick of hearing about VR sickness.”

Peddie argues that VR designers shouldn’t worry about compromising their designs in order to accommodate what may end up being a minority of people who experience simulator sickness. He says:

So now our current anxiety is all about VR sickness. VR will never succeed because it makes people sick. Really. I guess air travel, roller-coasters, and sailboats will never catch on, either, because they make people sick.

The point is that there is a distribution. Some percentage of the population can’t see 3D or color, gets fatigued by low refresh rates, has weak carpals, and gets motion sickness. Some, not everyone, just a small percentage.

Motion sickness can in some people be overcome, and so can VR sickness.

This is a big reason why Oculus implemented Comfort Ratings as a part of titles sold through Oculus Home so that users susceptible to simulator sickness could make an informed decision about what titles they would be able to enjoy. I’m not convinced that everyone will be able to overcome simulator sickness through brute force repetitions, and I don’t think that we should expect that people should have to suffer through developing their VR “sea legs” (if they even really exist for some people).

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Because VR is in it’s early development stages, then Oculus has been super cautious about promoting too many VR experiences that they know will make a number of different people sick. At E3 this year, there was a lot of negative press about AAA games like Resident Evil 7 for the Sony PlayStation VR that were making people sick.

Some of these specific issues can be solved with good VR design, but there’s also a wide spectrum of different VR locomotion solutions. Some people will find all of the locomotion solutions comfortable, but some other people will find only some of them comfortable. I imagine a time in the future where these different VR locomotion options will be pretty standardized, and we’ll get to pick whatever system that works best for us.

Teleporting around can break presence, and it often becomes a quick cheat that discourages physical movement within a VR scene. In the end, teleportation kills your sense of place in part because it disrupts our sense of how much time should pass when moving from one point to another. There are ways to restore that by watching an out-of-body ghost walk towards your teleport waypoint to let that time pass, but it’s still not the same as the feeling you get when you’re actually moving around within an environment. So there are clear tradeoffs between immersion and comfort when looking at different VR locomotion schemes.

But overall, I think that VirZOOM is clearly going to be a popular incentive and motivator for some people to get more exercise. The blending of gameplay with interval training is something that makes a lot of sense, and there’s may ways to explore how to blend these two together. Aside from gaming, the feeling of exploration and taking virtual rides through the equivalent a fully immersive Google Streetview or Google Earth VR is what gets me the most excited about using VR to combine exercise with virtual tourism. I just hope that someone will figure out how to design the experience so that I don’t get sick doing it.

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  • James Friedman

    I have only felt noxious once and that was in Windlands on the Rift. I turned the smooth motion off and jumping around like a maniac was a FANTASTIC experience, but after about 20 minutes I felt sick. Other than that any other movements felt good. I despise teleporting in-game.

    • ummm…

      try the kart series in project cars. it hurts for a while until you acclimate.

  • Doctor Bambi

    “So now our current anxiety is all about VR sickness. VR will never succeed because it makes people sick. Really. I guess air travel, roller-coasters, and sailboats will never catch on, either, because they make people sick.” Yeah, except none of those activities take place on your couch. Which most people sit on… everyday… sometimes for hours at a time. I’m fine with throwing up on a roller coaster, I’m not fine with throwing up on my living room floor. Sim sickness should be a VR developer’s top priority if VR is to have a stake in the household. Do the reseach and find real solutions, not ignore what I would consider to be a game breaking flaw. I know you can’t cater to everyone, but ultimately, we want everyone to be able to enjoy the benefits of this awesome medium.

    • Gus Bisbal

      Doc Bambi, ( can’t be certain of your credentials I feel ) I understand what your saying but maybe its about users getting used to it? Like stop being so ready for the world to cater for you and be ready to adapt? Like going on a cruiseship. You don’t say, I payed good money stop the boat from rocking. You just accept that you will adapt.

      • Doctor Bambi

        Never mind you about my credentials. ;) In my opinion, the living room is a sanctuary of comfort. It’s a place to rest and to revitalize and to have fun on a daily basis. A device that induces motion sickness in that environment is counter intuitive. Maybe the answer is that VR doesn’t belong in the living room. Maybe it’s a specific place you go to on occasion to experience intense and visceral content, like a VR arcade or amusement park. In those cases, I would be more lenient on an experience inducing sim sickness. That being said, I absolutely want VR in my home and I’ll suffer though any experience that induces sim sickness if the content is worth it. Just so long as developers do their best to minimize these types of issues and keep trying new ideas.

    • Sim sickness IS a top priority for devs and research teams around the world.

  • Homonyms

    Peddle -> Pedal

  • mellott124

    I tired VirZoom with HTC Vive at CES 2016. It’s interesting but the masses won’t care much unless it costs near to nothing. Concept wise it’s thinking in the right direction by trying to introduce new ways of movement in VR. Teleportation isn’t the solution and I hope it goes away soon.

  • pkovach

    We started the corporation InWorld 20 years ago and introduced VR exercise to the world.
    We had virtual reality bikes you could ride in VR cross country worlds and in a virtual veladrome, virtual ski machines, Etc

    We had high end graphic engines on silicon graphics and Kobota graphic computers, Etc driving the machines, but silicon graphics was working on PC based graphic boards to get us into the home

    We were at the largest health and fitness shows , and many other venues

    It is funny to see how people do not recognize that VR is a cyclical business scenario that comes and goes ever 10-15 years. The kids that have happened upon this now have been handed billions to reinvent the wheel and most haven’t even done the due diligence to realize what they have created is nothing new. In most cases they haven’t even reinvented the wheel to the extent where it is even close to where it was at previously (20 years ago). :)

    Now we have folks rediscovering numerous things we have leaned multiple times before – eg that people get motion sick when there is time page and incorrect motion and visual queues, etc, etc :)

    To keep VR from dying again and have to wait 10-15 years (again) for it to cycle back up, hopefully those that have the billions to spend on this awesome world of VR will spend it in the right place :) !!!!

    • Raphael

      Difference being we didn’t have the technology for low cost high resolution vr then. We didn’t have massive investment across multiple sectors. It was a limited market with low resolution, next to zero marketing and infrastructure. So things are very different now. The technology isn’t going away.

  • Albert Hartman

    real world roller coasters get me sick after awhile. So do those fast-spinning rides like the scrambler. a fast moving VR ride should not be expected to be any different.

  • Trooper Gooner

    I get hot enough just playing games with the Vive on let alone using it with an exercising gimmick like this. I just can’t see where the market it.

  • Harald Heide Gundersen

    Disagrees strongly with teleportation breaking feeling of presence…
    This is a new medium giving you alternate reality, so why not embrace the opportunity of having superpowers???
    I would greatly appreciate the ability to teleport if I had it in real life.. :-)
    Btw. Never got motion sick if moved in direction of gaze with a steady pace…

    • Raphael

      You can disagree all you want. Teleportaion impacts presense. It’s nothing to do with having super powers. Having the image jump and screen fade momentary Is a clumsy solution.

      • Not if the game explains why you’re able to teleport :)

        • Raphael

          “Flappy was given magic teleportation powers when he ate the magic powder he stole from drug dealers”… Nah, still not liking teleport.

          • While your example sounds fucking awesome, how about “Your character is a literal god and as such occupies every point in space simultaneously, your corporeal form can flit across space with minimal effort”.

            Also, characters like Nightcrawler from X-Men, or Agent Smith in the Matrix.

          • Raphael

            I’m not totally averse to teleport. I can live with it in some games. It’s a temporary fix for VR because of the nausea percentage (a minority). Ethan carter VR gives you full traditional locomotion with xbox controller… I have no issue with that and prefer it to teleport. I am able to play TF2 with mouse and keys in VR.

  • pkovach

    The key is that people need to understand the basic aspects of display, timing, fooling the inner ear and mind, etc. It is almost humerus watching people re-‘discovering’ that if your timing and presentation are not almost perfect, the mind and inner ear will cause you to become ill.
    Depressingly, thanks to the way we humans are made, women are much more prone to this than men. And these new systems are not being tested effectively with the full potential audiences to find the proper ways to address these issues. Latency in displays will exist until technology moves much further than where we are at today. Soooo – people need to do their due diligence and read/re-learn what many people already know about ways to address these problems instead of producing systems that have the exact same issues as every other time VR has started to take off and stopped because of it.
    We can easily get to systems that truly ‘work’, but bulky units like the occulus and others are not the answer. And the real problems need to be addressed before VR can get to the state it needs to, and should, get to for it to truly work for the masses.

  • Eric Malafeew

    Eric from VirZOOM here–our main technical aim has been to solve sim sickness for continuous motion through VR, so VirZOOM can represent any kind of outdoor exercise or vehicling that people enjoy. The latest VR headsets and drivers solve the problem at screen and head sensing levels, and our bike solves the “intuitive action” part of the problem, but it’s really our motion controls and custom physics that address most of the potential difference between visual and vestibular senses. Kent and EJ touched on them above, though note we never tilt or move the horizon. Look for details in our “Made With Unity” article!