Virtual reality evil is coming. Here’s how to avoid and treat it.


In the past This week, a number of people reported returning their Vision Pros for a number of reasons, including issues with headset comfort and health concerns. The efficiencies are comparable to those of any emerging technology. No matter how polished a first generation product is when it is released, there is a very real sense in which it serves as a large-scale public beta.

There’s a big difference between testing a product with dozens or hundreds of people and releasing it to the world for everyone to use. All product testing has its blind spots, but if you’re lucky, these examples are limited to a few outliers. Motion sickness, however, is definitely not a marginal case among the population.

According to studies, about a quarter of people suffer from this disease. It can cause nausea, headache, dizziness, fatigue and vomiting. If you’re lucky enough to have never faced it, believe me when I say it sucks. A lot. There’s a good reason why tens of millions of over-the-counter motion sickness products are sold each year in the United States.

Everyone is undoubtedly familiar with this situation when it comes to car rides, boat trips and especially hectic flights (the bag in your seat back pocket is not meant to store peanuts). Motion sickness in extended reality is a much lesser known phenomenon, due to the low penetration of augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality headsets. This is, however, a very real thing – and certainly not endemic to Apple’s first headset.

Meta Quest, HTC Vive, and PSVR users have all reported experiencing this. Reports of people returning hot new tech products within weeks of purchase will always raise eyebrows. That’s especially the case when Apple releases a device that’s been in the works for nearly a decade, with an asking price of $3,500.

The company was certainly mindful of motion sickness during the R&D phase. Reducing latency and increasing display resolution go a long way in reducing its potential. But if there is a method to prevent motion sickness for all users, no one has found it yet.

“With the emergence of new VR technologies, high-quality stereoscopic images [head-mounted displays] are now capable of simulating the visual and spatial properties of the real world,” notes a 2020 article on the subject. “Despite improvements, current technology still fails to replicate the way humans see and perceive depth under natural viewing conditions. There are software solutions that can help reduce discomfort by introducing blur during motion, but this technique may not be effective for everyone.

The underlying cause is the same in all of these examples. Motion sickness is triggered when your brain receives disjointed information from your eyes, body, and inner ear. These different senses process the present moment differently. It’s easy to imagine how using headphones effectively designed to trick your brain’s perception of reality could trigger these symptoms.

Apple was smart enough to know that this would present itself to a certain portion of Vision Pro users, and given that many of us are prone to motion sickness in one form or another, it’s quite likely that a number significant number of people would experience certain symptoms. Prior to the release of Vision Pro, Apple released guidelines designed to minimize and treat potential motion sickness.

Before I get into the details of Apple’s guidelines, let me state an obvious fact: the best way to avoid VR sickness is to avoid VR. Speaking from direct experiences, the second best solution is to limit your usage. If you’re prone to motion sickness (like me), don’t expect to jump into the infinite office full-time anytime soon. I tend to keep my sessions between 20 and 30 minutes. That’s enough time to do a lot of things you’d want to do with the headset, but it’s a long way from actually living in the thing. I’ve also found that I’m much less likely to experience it while sitting.

I didn’t experience motion sickness in my first Vision Pro demos. It wasn’t until I got home and started participating in activities that required me to get up and walk around that I was hit with a wall of nausea. I overdid it and opted not to wear the helmet for the rest of the day.

Apple also recommends against wearing the headset for long periods of time and moving around too much, if you are prone to motion sickness. For this reason, you may also want to think twice before wearing the headset on a plane. Apple also suggests reducing “visual movement.” The company writes:

Visual movement can come from apps in which you appear to be moving, or from the movement of objects or content within the app. To reduce visual movement:

  • Reduce the window size or increase the distance from the window.

  • Reduce the level of immersion by rotating the Digital Crown. This helps provide a sense of stability by allowing you to see more of the space around you.

  • Enable the Reduce Motion setting on your device: Go to Settings > Accessibility > Motion, then select Reduce Motion.

One last seemingly obvious piece of advice before you leave: try it before you buy it. Go to an Apple Store, borrow one from a friend – get your hands on it first, before spending such a large amount of money. You may be one of the lucky ones who never experience any discomfort from these products. God bless and see you soon in what we call the metaverse now.

However, if you’re like me and tend to get sick on boats and in the backseat of Ubers, be careful. Even the best VR experience can be miserable if your brain and body don’t agree on the basics of reality.


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