The Future of VR Might Involve a Virtual Nose

By Leon Hurley on at

I am one of the lucky few that doesn't seem to be affected by motion sickness when using VR, but for some it can render the tech almost unusable. That's where a well-rendered digital nose might come in handy...

The issue with motion sickness is that your body has a very highly tuned sense of balance and your brain is used to it matching what you can see. It's why people get sick in cars or on boats: balance says moving, eyes say no, stomach says outta here. VR actually goes the other way because your eyes see movement your balance can't detect.

That can be lessened if there's something for your eyes to latch onto in game. It's why flight-sims or racers – things with a cockpit – tend to be a bit gentler on those who suffer. But what about games where there's no handy visual reference to anchor yourself on?

That's where David Whittinghill, an assistant professor in Purdue University's Department of Computer Graphics Technology, comes in. He's been trying out the awfully, awfully named 'nasum virtualis', a virtual nose.

The study used two demos: one where users walk around a Tuscany villa and another where they hurtle around a roller coaster. One group tried it normally, the other with the digital nose added in to their view. The results were small but significant. For the villa, the nose let the motion sick explore for an additional 94.2 seconds before tapping out to heave. The much more severe roller coaster eked out a slim additional 2.2 seconds before chunder time.

Those changes might seem trivial but researchers say it's "a very clear trend". In addition, electro dermal activity sensors were use to test skin conductivity (sweating changes this, acting as a measure of emotional state). That data also showed a measurable difference between 'nose' and 'no nose'.

Interestingly, no one even noticed the nose was there, and only learned about it when they where told after the test. At the moment a few seconds isn't really going to help those who suffer from VR related motion sickness, but the fact that something as simple as this makes a difference is a good start on solving the problem.

['Virtual nose' may reduce simulator sickness in video games - phys.org]
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[Putting a virtual nose on video games could reduce simulator sickness - Engadget]