One of the big problems of virtual reality headsets is that they can easily induce nausea in people, especially with prolonged use. While that may seem like a small price to pay for getting to be your favorite character in a game, or experiencing new places both real and imaginary, it’s nonetheless a very real barrier to adoption for the wider market.
While some solutions are currently in testing to address this issue, Microsoft Research is proposing a new approach that seems to work well in early prototypes. The main factor contributing to nausea while wearing VR helmets seems to be related to a limited field of vision (FOV). Humans are generally used to having an FOV of more than 180 degrees, which gets severely limited to around 100 degrees when using VR. Combined with occasional frame rate decreases, lens quality and so on, that can easily lead to nausea.
Now Microsoft has an easy solution for the field of view problem, by using a number of inexpensive LEDs inside of a VR headset. They demoed this approach using an Oculus Rift and a Samsung Galaxy Gear VR. The concept is easy to understand: provide some form of limited wide field of vision by employing the LEDs as pixels. You can think of it as Ambilight for your VR headset displays.
As you can see from the video above, the pixels act to send users a bit of information regarding their surroundings: there might be a wall on the left; there’s a light or an object near you, etc. This is exactly what peripheral vision does in real life, albeit to a much higher degree of precision and responsiveness. But, according to Microsoft researchers, even this limited implementation proved to keep users more engaged in the virtual world and delay the onset of nausea or other unpleasant side-effects from using VR headsets.
Microsoft is currently focused on HoloLens and its mixed reality efforts, which don’t suffer from these problems but have their own set of challenges to deal with. But the company and its researchers are keeping a close eye on the wider market of virtual and mixed reality and taking note of everything that can be improved.
Source: Microsoft Research