Why it’s so hard to be in VR: motion sickness, lack of touch and problems with proprioception

VR and related industries have already taken over gaming and viral marketing campaigns. Augmented and mixed

reality is used in a variety of fields.

Western retailers have been testing for several yearsvirtual trading floors before building real ones. They design store layouts in VR, conduct tours for focus groups, collect metrics, and only then decide what to implement.

Virtual store layouts

VR can simulate almost any type.real space, so it is often tested in the service industry. Assurity, a New Zealand-based company, using virtual reality tested how well Christchurch airport space is being used. They revised the layout and made it more convenient for passengers.

An important industry in which virtualreality is labor protection in the workplace. VR modeling is used to prepare workers before going to construction sites, as well as for training flight attendants in case of emergencies in the cabin.

VR allows you to test complex scenarios of user behavior - for example, the passage of customs at the airport by passengers

Some mental and physical illnesses can be treated using VR. The most successful area of ​​application is the treatment of phobias.

VR opens up many opportunities in the fieldeducation. In addition to the obvious lectures and excursions, virtual reality is used to create various simulators. They allow students to develop skills without the risk of failure in the real world. In the West, it is widespread in the training of astronauts, military, pilots, drivers, as well as in primary education.

Virtual reality in the treatment of arachnophobia

As virtual reality spreadsMore and more designers want to try themselves in this area, which is not surprising. That's why today many articles and entire blogs are devoted to technical limitations, tools and approaches to creating amazing user experiences.

On the one hand, this paves the way for specialistsway, but on the other hand, it does not allow us to consider the main aspects of immersion in virtual reality. There is a feeling that designers are moving too quickly to create VR interfaces. Although it’s worth figuring out how this differs from everything they’ve done before.

UX and senses

When a designer creates a website or application fordesktop or mobile, it allows the user to decide on what to focus. But when it comes to VR, the designer places the user in the content he developed: affects all the senses. At least for most of them.

This is a huge responsibility and the main problem of UX in VR. Therefore, first of all, designers should think about the system of organs of sense of their users.

  • Vision

Designers design interfaces thatappear directly in front of the user and remain there when he turns his head. That is, they leave no opportunity to ignore them. In this regard, there are already a number of recommendations about what distance from the eyes objects and texts should be in three-dimensional space.

But questions remain that require close attention.attention in each case. People may experience discomfort when something penetrates their personal space. Therefore, it is worth giving users the opportunity to choose, for example, the distance that a zombie can approach them in a shooter.

Another important point concerns peripheralvision. It is less sensitive to detail, so objects that are located in its range are not seen as clearly. On the other hand, they can cause significant anxiety, especially animated ones, because peripheral vision is very good at detecting movement. To prevent the user from being distracted from the content, such objects should be avoided.

  • Hearing

The second important thing that is completelycontrolled in VR is sound. The human brain is able to distinguish the most insignificant vibrations that come from different directions and determine their source. An experienced designer can create very powerful spatial illusions with just sound, no pictures - listen to this.

When the effects of audio and video are combined,the illusion of immersion becomes extremely convincing. But there's a catch: when sound and image are poorly synchronized, the illusion is ruined. If you need to show the user a dinosaur in virtual reality, it is important to accurately associate the sounds with its location: so that the sound from the left leg comes from the left, from the right leg from the right, and the roar comes from several places at once.

The sound adds realism.While working on one game, the sound design team discovered that if the sound source was placed above the character's head, it would feel like he was underwater or underground. The effect was perfect for the specific game scene they were working on: it took place on a submarine.

It is precisely due to its persuasiveness that VR is used intreating phobias and exposing patients to such experiences. But such sessions are planned in advance and carefully controlled. Unintentionally plunging the user deep underwater may not be the most pleasant surprise.

  • Sense of smell

Now taste and smell do not play an important role inimmersion in virtual reality, but perhaps this will change in the future. Most likely, the user will have to use some kind of invasive physical interface to convey the taste.

It's easier with smell.There are already companies that offer virtual reality masks that act on the olfactory receptors. This can also be useful in various areas - from the gaming industry to psychotherapy sessions, because smells can evoke memories and emotions that can enhance the user experience.

  • Touch

In VR you can grab, pull, push,rotate and move objects just like in the real world. But the problem is that they don't actually exist. Handheld controllers, which are both a control interface and a sensory feedback mechanism, help solve the problem.

Another solution is different types of gloves, finger clips, and even full-body haptic suits. All this allows you to experience virtual reality.

Another question is whether touch always improves experience.interaction with VR. For example, one can easily imagine how tactile feedback makes a bat hit the ball more real in a virtual baseball game. But will it improve all possible interactions? Will it cause alarm every time you scroll the map and each time you press a button?

Such studies are only to be conducted and, on their basis, develop recommendations for VR.

  • Proprioception

Proprioception is the sensation of your body in space. It occurs due to the processing of data from a special type of receptor and provides information about the position of muscles, joints and tendons.

A person feels what position they are inlimbs, and evaluates the posture of the body as a whole, knows where and at what speed it is moving, and can estimate the muscle effort required for some movement. This is all proprioception.

Together with vision, touch, sense of balanceand spatial orientation, which provides the vestibular apparatus, proprioception allows you to perform familiar actions automatically. In the real world, this happens as follows: the brain receives information from different senses at the same time and immediately understands what is happening, but problems may arise in VR.

Designer can fully provide perfectsound and picture, but can not always affect the proprioception and vestibular apparatus. Hence, seasickness, about which everyone probably heard in the context of virtual reality.

Imagine:you see yourself through the eyes of a virtual reality character who bends down to pick up an object from the ground. At the same time, your own body signals to the brain that it is not actually moving. The brain decides that you have taken drugs or been poisoned and are now hallucinating, and wants to get rid of the threat by causing vomiting.

To minimize this sensory conflict,designers use different approaches. Some of them are based on restricting movement in a virtual environment, for example creating a space the size of a real room. Others use teleportation instead of walking and running, which, of course, does not have the best effect on realism.

Not only does the technology market change over time,but also ways of consuming content, communicating and even thinking. Think about how young children now try to use gestures to control physical objects like touch interfaces, and you will realize that this is indeed the case.

Therefore, the decisions we make nowworking with virtual reality largely determine how the next generation will interact with the world. To deal with existing problems and discover new use cases for VR, it is not enough to use other people's schemes and recommendations.

It is important to understand from your own experience where the difficulties lie and offer your own ways to solve problems. The advantages and disadvantages of each will be the first step towards creating an impressive UX.