We’re finally on our last article of this series on locomotion in VR. We’ve learned that while real walking is the best option, it requires physical space. And we’ve learned that teleportation is one of the best alternatives when you don’t have the space for real walking.
Now, we’ll be covering the last of the alternatives, which is artificial locomotion. This includes flying, skating, driving, riding — any type of locomotion that moves you in the virtual world and gives you a false sense of motion in that world.
Using a touchpad, joystick or other such controller input to move around in virtual space, inducing the artificial feeling of flying, riding, driving, etc.
Even though this is the most common type of locomotion you’ll find in VR experiences, it is by far the most likely to make people sick.
As mentioned in the article, Physical Factors: Motion Sickness in XR, the reason for this is that there is a mismatch between what is being seen and what is being felt. Your eyes see that you’re moving, but your body doesn’t feel any motion.
- No physical space needed.
- It’s much easier to move around virtual worlds and 3D spaces.
- Highest risk of motion sickness of all types of locomotion in VR.
I don’t recommend this type of locomotion at all. That said, if you find yourself needing this type for whatever reason, keep this advice in mind…
- Warn people if something might cause disorientation or discomfort.
- Use head tracking and gaze to control the direction of movement.
- Avoid virtual rotation with the use of the controller and just let the individual rotate physically.
- Keep the individual grounded and the horizon steady.
- Let the individual initiate and terminate the movement.
- Let the individual control the speed of movement.
- Use care with acceleration and deceleration.
- When it’s necessary to move to a new virtual location, consider an elevator or transport pod that blocks the view of motion, or other similar solutions that would work with the narrative.
- If there must be any instant location changes or rotations, use blinks (fade in and out) since these are natural occurrences that our brain already subconsciously fills in the gaps for, so that you don’t even notice it happening. It does need to be used with care since over-utilization of these features — such as with rapid changes 8 times/second or more will re-introduce motion sickness.
- Blurring the periphery is another option for reducing the risk or amount of sickness experienced since motion in the periphery is one of the main causes of motion sickness.
- Provide options for comfort settings, and alternative types of locomotion so that those who are prone to motion sickness can still enjoy.
Examples to try
Richie’s Plank Experience
They use a combination of virtual travel and natural walking. You can walk on and off the elevator, and then the elevator closes and takes you up to height. If you peek through the crack in the elevator doors, you can see you’re traveling upwards.
You can walk on the plank, but the fall is (fortunately) virtual. You make the choice to step off the plank, so you’re still initiating the movement. They make good use of careful, gradual acceleration speeds to reduce the risk of motion sickness.
NOTE: I do need to note that there are more floors in this experience, such as the Hero Academy floor. I can’t do much with these floors personally, since they use flying as a primary source of locomotion. While they do let you initiate the movement, at the time I tried it there was no other mitigation in place for sickness, so I didn’t last long. I won’t try it again. And that’s not what you want when you create a VR experience.
Vader Immortal: Episode I
They provide settings in the main menu that allow you to adjust your comfort and accessibility options. Since there is a portion of the game that requires you to climb, they have provided a way for you to adjust the settings for that specific event to reduce risk of sickness and increase ease of interaction.
- Physical Factors: Motion Sickness in XR by Aleatha Singleton
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I’m an Immersive Tech UX Design Professional with over 22 years of experience designing for kiosks, websites, mobile apps and desktop software for many well-known and not-so-well-known companies.
I’m not speaking on behalf of or representing any company. These are my personal thoughts, experiences and opinions.
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