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Treatment for Simulator-Sickness: Insert a Nose

If you spend enough time in a flight simulator or using Virtual Reality goggles, you’re likely to suffer “simulator sickness”. The simulator shows your eyes objects, motions, and distances which don’t match what your other senses are perceiving, which can cause nausea, vertigo, headaches, and other documented symptoms.

Some designers try to lessen the effect by inserting a motionless frame around what the viewer sees – like a virtual dashboard or window frame. One research team decided to insert a nose.

(click on this image for video) Still image from the rollercoaster simulator used to test the nasum virtualis, courtesy of Purdue University and Wired magazine.

Nasum Virtualis: A Simple Technique for Reducing Simulator Sickness (D.M. Whittinghill, Bradley Ziegler, James Moore, and Tristan Case)

“…we placed a three-dimensional model of a virtual human nose in the center of the fields of view of the display of an Oculus Rift: the left display seeing only the left half of the nose model in the lower right corner, the right display seeing only the right half of the nose in the lower left corner. Two groups were tested, the Nose experimental group and the No-nose control group…”

This nose idea was suggested by Bradley Ziegler, then an undergraduate student.

“It was a stroke of genius,” said Whittinghill, who teaches video game design. “You are constantly seeing your own nose. You tune it out, but it’s still there, perhaps giving you a frame of reference to help ground you.”

Adding this virtual nose, or “nasum virtualis”, to the simulated scene delayed the effects of simulator sickness for different amounts of time, depending on the scene being viewed – users riding a virtual rollercoaster gained only a few extra seconds before symptoms began, while those walking around a virtual house gained an extra 94 seconds.

Surprisingly, the test subjects didn’t notice the virtual nose in their field of view.

“It’s a big honking nose… It never occurred to us that they wouldn’t perceive it, but they were almost universally baffled about what we were even talking about.”

BONUS: These test subjects who didn’t notice the nose placed virtually in front of their faces remind us of the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize in Psychology, awarded to the researchers who demonstrated, “…that when people pay close attention to something, it’s all too easy to overlook anything else — even a woman in a gorilla suit.

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