Stanford team battles VR sickness by bringing worlds into focus

Stanford University research team hopes to cure nauseating side effects of VR by bringing virtual reality into focus -- with new technology that helps the eyes adjust to wearing a headset.

What if VR sickness could be erased through the physical way the headsets are constructed?

One of the biggest problems facing VR has to do with how our bodies interpret what we're "seeing." Much in the same way that 3D TVs and movies leave some users feeling sick, VR headsets can also cause discomfort. It's not a universal issue, but it's a problem that'll need solving if VR is to ever become part of our day-to-day lives. 

Fortunately for those who do suffer from VR sickness, a Stanford University research team [PDF] has found what might be a cure: Technology that allows the eyes to focus naturally on objects at different (simulated) distances, as illusrated above. This is in contrast to single-screen VR tech, which simply places users in front of a "magnified 2D image" that appears flat to the body's systems.

By combining "well-known" stereoscopic display principles with "emerging factored light field technology," the team hopes to add depth to virtual worlds, allowing us to focus in on specific objects:

If successful, our bodies are more likely to accept VR worlds as real, reducing the nauseating side-effects of VR while allowing us to use the tech for longer periods of time. 

"Accurate reproduction of all depth cues is crucial for visual comfort. By combining well-known stereoscopic display principles with emerging factored light field technology, [we've created] the first wearable VR display that supports high image resolution as well as focus cues," explained the research team. 

"The light field stereoscope is a crucial step towards highly immersive but also comfortable experiences. Along with content, latency, field of view, and resolution, visual comfort may be one of the most important factors determining the eventual success of emerging near-eye displays in the consumer market.

"With the proposed technology, we hope to contribute a practical technology for improving visual comfort. We strongly believe our technology to be a crucial advance towards more immersive and comfortable VR experiences."

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