Actor Tamara Bruketta experiences the Oculus VR version of Sound Self at the IndieCade booth at E3 2013. (Noah Nelson)

Can Eye Tracking Solve Sim Sickness?

on Wednesday, Jun. 4th

Sim Sickness: the special breed of motion sickness brought on by exposure to virtual reality.

There’s no single root cause of sim sickness–everything from device latency to gender have been pegged as contributing culprits. The problem is also more serious than just causing gung-ho gamers to puke while playing games. Prolonged exposure to VR can cause excessive postural sway–that’s the movement of the body in a still position to maintain balance. In other words: spending too much time in VR can render some people effectively drunk.

While there is no “magic bullet” to cure Sim Sickness, there are a number of things virtual reality hardware developers have been working on in order to lower the impact. One of those pathways has been to get eye tracking systems into VR head mounted displays (HMDs) so that the systems can auto-calibrate for an individual user’s gaze. For instance: the Oculus Rift hardware assumes a inter-pupillary distance–that’s how far your eyes are apart–of 64mms. That’s close to the average, but individual users can vary widely.

That’s one reason why people won’t be able to just share their VR headsets with friends easily if auto calibration technology doesn’t make it into the systems. Think about how strange it is to put on someone else’s glasses and you get the idea.

Ars Technica’s Megan Geuss has a in-depth look at one eye tracking solution from the German company SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI), which she me with during last week’s Augmented Reality World Expo. If you’re not familiar with some of the issues around getting VR just right, this article does a great job of explaining some of the core challenges.

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