A new study has been recently published in the PLOS ONE scientific journal:
The study examines the impact of watching 3D movies on inducing various types of simulator sickness: nausea, oculomotor (the nerve the controls most of the eye movements) and disorientation. It concludes that:
Seeing 3D movies can increase rating of symptoms of nausea, oculomotor and disorientation, especially in women with susceptible visual-vestibular system. Confirmatory studies which include examination of clinical signs on viewers are needed to pursue a conclusive evidence on the 3D vision effects on spectators.
Through questionnaires administered to nearly 500 adults, the study shows that
Viewers reporting some sickness […] were 54.8% of the total sample after the 3D movie compared to 14.1% of total sample after the 2D movie. Symptom intensity was 8.8 times higher than baseline after exposure to 3D movie (compared to the increase of 2 times the baseline after the 2D movie)”
At some level, this study confirms that those working in the 3D and VR industries already know for a long time: a 3D experience, and even more so inside VR goggles, can be very intense and can provide significant sensory stimuli to the person. For instance, if head tracking is done incorrectly or with significant lag, a person wearing goggles can develop nausea within the first minute of use.
What is unclear from the study is what the long-term effects are. For instance, many people feel a bit dizzy after getting off a treadmill. The body perceives movement but no forward movement is actually taking place. However, this dizziness typically passes very quickly after dismounting the treadmill and does not seem to have any long-term effects. Is this also true with 3D goggles? Is the brain ‘elastic’ to the effects of 3D goggles in the sense that it reverts to the original state, or are there lasting effects?
As VR goggles become increasingly immersive, as sensors are added to make VR experiences engaging and compelling, how do we best address this issue?
- What can be done to minimize the impact?
- Should there be an acclimation period in 3D games? Just like a warm-up or cool-down period is recommended before and after physical exercise, perhaps there is some on-ramp and off-ramp to a 3D experience?
- How can one tell if a person is more or less susceptible to these issues? The study cites the American Optometric Association and its estimate that 3-9 million Americans have problems in binocular vision.
- What are the legal and liability implications of selling 3D goggles for consumer activity? What kind of warnings and disclaimers should be put in place?
- Is there a way to tell – during a game – whether a user has become uncomfortable and stop or reduce the intensity level?