August 28, 2017

Why VR Discomfits

From an educator’s perspective, there are four reasons why VR may not provide a comfortable viewing experience for all:

The Content. Content can be poorly designed. I am reminded of a display at  InfoComm that was making passersby sick. The culprit: they were showing crummy content: poorly constructed stereo—too much swirling, fast action motion, and montage work. Showing furious rollercoaster rides, wild river rapid trips, or spiraling, headturning motion is simply crazy. The solution: in classrooms, we quickly learned to use only content that was designed well, for comfortable viewing by children.

The Driver. One can easily make teachers or students sick simply by ‘driving’ the viewing experience too fast: rotating images to quickly or zooming in and out too abruptly. In fact, after investigation, this is what caused the two children to vomit in the Florida case mentioned last week. The students were spinning themselves around wildly, trying to take in the overwhelming visual experience of Google Cardboard at a perilous pace. The solution: an ounce of prevention by taking time to explain students how to comport themselves when wearing VR headgear is worth a pound of cure (or vomit).

The Technology. Let’s stop and mention the mysterious phenomenon of virtual reality sickness. I am aware of several technology-based reasons why virtual reality sickness may make some people hate VR. Let’s discuss just one such theory, the notion of visual lag caused by inadequate rendering due to the limitations of underpowered hardware or software.  Certainly, sensory conflict arises when our eyes recognize a mismatch to our proprioception and vestibular input. According to leading vision experts, when flow is overloaded, interrupted, or confused, a general disorientation will result.

But there is still a bigger problem, one that helps explain why VR may not provide a comfortable viewing experience for a larger subset of viewers. Stay tuned to find out the fourth reason next week!

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