What is Cybersickness or VR Sickness? Definition, Symptoms, Precautions, Treatment

If you are hearing the term Cybersickness for the first time, don’t be worried if you use PC a lot. Cybersickness closely relates to VR Sickness which in simple words can be compared to Motion Sickness in real life. Have you often felt getting dizzy when traveling in a car or felt vomiting when on a bus?  This is called as Motion sickness. This imbalance causes inner ear to think that you need to balance your self and hence the result. The inner ear is responsible to send a reflex signal to safeguard your body from injury when your body goes out of balance.  In this post, let’s learn about Cybersickness or VR Sickness. We will look into its definition, reasons,  symptoms, treatments.

What is Cybersickness or VR Sickness

Cybersickness or VR Sickness

When playing VR games, the same thing happens. Most of the VR games which involve a lot of movement, random falls, actions you need to take to play games, make your inner year feel that you need to balance your body. While your mind knows you are in VR, but when wearing VR headsets, your eyes perceive this as reality, and the same kind of motion sickness kicks in.

Reasons for Cybersickness or VR Sickness

However, people who never felt motion sickness can get Cybersickness or VR Sickness quite easily. There is a logical reason for it. VR headset uses three sensory system–visual, vestibular and proprioceptive. If the system is perfect, and the actions happening in the virtual world are same as the real world, things would not have caused a problem. But that doesn’t happen.

If our eyes perceive a moment which is out of sync, even by few milliseconds, the response taken by the body is delayed, or rushed i.e. body doesn’t respond timely. Say if you want to get out of a moving bus, but you will out of balance if you realize that bus was already moving only a few seconds later. Any VR headset which has poor refresh rate for its lenses will cause problems.

You need to be smart when buying a VR headset. Here is the list of common things you need to check:

  • High-Resolution Display VR.
  • OLED displays over LCD displays.
  • Trackers have sub-millimeter head tracking to minimize the delay.
  • Frames-per-second (FPS) should match the refresh rate for the best experience.
  • Use a PC with high graphics and hardware support as it affects framerates.

Symptoms of Cybersickness

If you are not able to play VR games for long and need to take constant breaks, you are suffering from the sickness.  Many a time you won’t be able to play the games which are as simple as a roller coaster or sickness feeling while looking around in the game, especially in a non-flat terrain.

Precautions & Treatment for VR Sickness

Apart from choosing the right hardware, both VR headset, a superfast PC, you need to take certain precautions which will help you fix this problem. However, do remember that if you are constantly involved in wrong hardware, the sickness will show up again.

Take breaks when in VR: Many VR games have situations where you don’t need to take any action. It could be a break, a cutscene or anything similar. You can close your eyes during these scenarios. That way, your eyes, and your inner year will come into sync.

Keep Breathing: It’s not a big deal to miss some breathing when playing a game. I played few intense Xbox Games, and after finishing, I would take a long deep breath. Usually, the body chooses to take a shallow breath when you are in a rush, and you need to take care of this in VR as well, as you do in a workout. Deep breathing is important here.

Sit & Play: Many VR games don’t need you to stand, and play. All they need is hand movement or minimal body movement.  Play those games while sitting in a comfortable, and safe chair. Make sure to choose your chair correctly. You don’t want to pick up a plastic chair which gets out of balance easily. Instead see if you can get on a sofa, and make sure the floor doesn’t hurt much. You will have no idea of the real world when in VR.

Change View distance or FOV:  Don’t play the VR games up close. Keep the view at a distance. VR headsets do allow you to change this view distance of FOV and find distance which is comfortable for you. Move around a bit, and see if your body response is positive, if not further adjust till you find it.

A cool comfortable environment: When gaming in VR, set it up at a place which comforts you. An AC room is preferred so when your body gets high, the external cool temperature can take care of it. You do not want to play in an environment which makes you sweat, and heats you up.

Take regular breaks: VR is addictive, just like any gaming, and you need to take regular breaks just like in gaming. Anything which is pro-longed draws too much energy from body and mind. You need to come back the real world to find your balance. A small break, pause games, a longer break after an intense session of the game helps.

Focus on a point: When playing intensive games, you need to look here, and there. This causes dizziness. Say, for example, a roller coaster VR game can do that. The best way to beat the dizziness is to focus on point for few seconds or even a minute. Maybe look down at your leg or shoes if the scenes are constantly changing around you. This will reduce the dizziness.

Get your body ready for VR: If you are new to VR, then don’t jump into a game of high intensity. Start slow, and give your body some time to adjust to it. Download some free VR games which helps you, and your body understands whats going around in VR.  You will still need to follow everything I had said above.

Ask the experts: This applies to almost everything in life, any life, virtual or real. There is this super Reddit thread where a consumer fixed his VR sickness by adding overlay in his view. Those opaque/semi-transparent borders reduced his nausea and headache. More on this on ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

Lastly, if nothing helps, seek a Doctor. Don’t be scared, and it’s mostly in a worst-case scenario. You may have to take precautions for few days, but things will be alright.

So, did you ever got yourself in a situation where things got out of the way or maybe just started? What did you do? Let us know in the comments.

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Ashish is a veteran Windows, and Xbox user who excels in writing tips, tricks, and features on it to improve your day to day experience with your devices.

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