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article imageMicrosoft combats nausea in virtual reality with some cheap LEDs

By James Walker     May 4, 2016 in Technology
Early adopters of virtual reality headsets have frequently commented on the feeling of nausea that VR experiences can induce. Microsoft has developed a quick and low-cost fix for the problem, involving nothing more than some strips of LED lights.
The first headsets aimed at consumers are now available, ranging from Facebook's Oculus Rift to Samsung's mobile-oriented Gear VR. They all face a common problem though, the feeling of nausea that being immersed in a digital world can create.
Multiple companies are already working on solutions. Microsoft has now come up with its own way of suppressing nausea in VR and it could be the simplest to date.
In a video published yesterday, the company's Research department explained how the nausea originated from the limited field of view of virtual reality headsets. A human's eyes has a field of view of slightly over 180 degrees, creating a complete panorama of the surrounding world.
VR headsets limit field of view to around 100 degrees though, chopping over 40 degrees of the world out of your vision. The occasional blurring, frame rate drops, "God rays" and other VR image issues combine with the limited field of view to create the feeling of nausea.
Extending the field of view of a VR headset is more complex than it sounds. More display pixels would be required, in turn needing a more powerful graphics processor to keep everything running smoothly. According to Microsoft, the solution is actually much simpler, requiring only a strip of LEDs on each side of the headset.
Because objects in the periphery of your vision are blurred and out of focus, Microsoft theorized that even a vague sense of something existing beyond the sides of the headset should help to combat the nausea. This is what the LEDs are for, creating an obscured strip of light that hints at a wider field of view than really exists.
The solution works with both the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Galaxy Gear VR. Called SparseLightVR, Microsoft adds 70 peripheral LEDs to the headset that create a horizontal field of view of 170 degrees, much closer to what human eyes naturally achieve.
The LEDs change colour to match the content close to the edge of the display, creating an illusion of it extending into your peripheral vision as it would in real life. Despite the lack of detail, Microsoft claims it is enough to keep users comfortable in virtual reality worlds for longer periods than without SparseLightVR.
Microsoft's implementation would not add any significant cost to a VR headset. LEDs are cheap electrical components that could be incorporated into the design of existing products, making future VR experiences more comfortable when using a headset for prolonged periods.
More about Microsoft, Virtual reality, Vr, Headset, vr headset
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