How I Felt After An Entire Day Of VR

How I Felt After An Entire Day Of VR

On Monday I ran an endurance gauntlet of VR demos: 10 games, 30 minutes each, one after the other.

It was a showcase of all the Oculus Rift's launch games, many of which I really liked. But it also brought up a question I've had for a while about VR: can you endure being immersed in it for more than a half-hour or so? How does it make you feel after prolonged use?

Related: 8 of The Best Oculus Rift Games I've Played

As the picture above indicates, it didn't exactly make me feel brilliant. After a morning's worth of different Rift games, I felt disorientated, a touch nauseous, and distinctly headachey. After five hours I felt like I needed a lie-down in a dark room. It's not that the games are badly made, or that the headset is uncomfortable to use: developers appear to have figured out the ground rules of VR now and no finished Oculus game makes you feel actively unwell, like some of the earlier demos could. But jumping between different realities turns out to be quite taxing on the brain. I also had very attractive red marks all around my face from wearing the headset all day.

How I Felt After An Entire Day Of VR

The Oculus event in question. There were 41 games there.

In the space of five hours, I was: an astronaut free-floating in space, a disembodied camera watching a little fox jump around, sitting in a chair playing a card game, a bird flying at speed around a deserted city, benevolent general to a group of space-bears, a tennis player, a gunslinger ducking in and out of cover, and an AI virus that infected robots with laser rifles. Each time the headset came off, I had only about five minutes to readjust to reality before being dropped into a new world. It was… challenging.

Related: A Brief Guide to Every Oculus Rift Launch Game

The beginning of Adrift — a game that, thankfully, can be played outside of VR — has you essentially living through the opening scene of the film Gravity, which is stressful enough to watch, let alone experience. As I free-floated in space away from an exploding station, separated from the endless, spinning abyss of space only by a tether caught around my leg, my brain was telling me that I was in real, imminent danger, sending adrenaline coursing through my system, making me feel panicked as well as distinctly nauseated. It was intense, but definitely not comfortable.

There was a noticeable disconnect between my conscious self and my brain's and body's natural responses to what was happening. I happened to be wearing a Fitbit during the day, and looking at my heart rate data later on, I discovered that I was constantly in a state of physical stress: my heart rate was over 100 the entire time.

How I Felt After An Entire Day Of VR

Palmer Luckey, who is presumably used to all this by now.

This is, of course, because I am not used to VR. I've worn these headsets before, but only ever for 20 or 40 minutes at a time. I'm also especially vulnerable to motion sickness; I get nauseous in the back seat of cars, so VR has always been a bit daunting. Previously, I've found that playing VR games for under an hour at a time produced no ill-effects, at least not on the modern, optimised HTC Vive and Oculus headsets.

The only thing I can compare it to is how I used to feel after using the 3DS, in the early days. A half-hour of playing in 3D used to give me a raging headache, but after a couple of months it was completely fine. I'm certain that the same acclimatisation effect will kick in after using VR on a daily or weekly basis. It also might help, I'm thinking, if I ditch the glasses and wear contact lenses when using VR — looking through two lenses is surely not good for the eyes.

The headache lasted until the end of the day. I found looking at any screens at all in the evening made me wince — though the same would be true if I'd spent 6 hours of the day staring at a TV, too. The nausea was a bit more enduring; that persisted until the next morning, when a brisk walk in the San Francisco sunshine seemed to re-orientate me in our shared reality. It did make me nervous about trying too many PlayStation VR demos the next day — after a couple of those, my head was getting swimmy again, so I retreated before it got any worse.

How I Felt After An Entire Day Of VR

Basically me, after just the one VR demo.

In short: I would definitely not recommend using VR for six continuous hours until you are well acclimatised. I think the sense of disorientation that occurs when you remove the headset will fade with time — as, presumably, will the physical ill-effects — but if you're the delighted recipient of a new Oculus Rift headset on March 23rd, it's probably a good idea to pace yourself. Any maybe don't try 10 different games in one day.

How I Felt After An Entire Day Of VR

This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour with a U from the British isles.


    I think if you were to stick with just one title and not swapping every 30 minutes it will make it feel better? Too many different experience in one go will make your body go weird lol

      Think back to 3D teles 5ish years ago. They failed because people got disoriented with the experience, and hated the glasses, and in the end there wasnt enough traction for it to take off. And that was with a primary device EVERYONE (well, near enough) uses.

      This isnt much different to that, except it costs a significant amount, its NOT something everyone uses, and weighs 100 times more than 3D glasses did.

      So if people complained about 3D glasses being a hassle, what do people think is going to happen with these headsets?

      I want VR to work, but there are so many things that need to go right before it hits critical mass, and only one of them needs to go wrong. Its going to be a tough slog over the next 12 months to make them work.

        Except 3D TV is a whole different kettle of fish. It doesn't really add very much to the standard screen experience, it pretty much requires you to keep your head in the one position and your eyes completely level with the ground. Plus the image doesn't change at all when you do move your head, which would be a huge contributor to the disorientation. Humans get more depth cues from parallax than from stereoscopy, which is why it pretty much looks at its best with big panning scenic shots like you had in Avatar.

        It's the difference between looking at a picture on the wall (TV), looking at a window on the wall (3D TV) and stepping through the window into another world (VR). The ratio between what is added to the experience versus what you have to do to get it is far far greater than with 3DTV.

          You're focusing too specifically on the example.

          Generally speaking, at the broad level I'm using there isnt much difference. You wear something to enhance your experience in both is the main point, and with 3D, what you wore was so comparitively minor, yet was still put forward as a major justification for not adopting it.

          So why do people think this will be different?

          And it adds plenty when done right. The good 3D movies work far better than the 2D ones. VR will be the same, there will be good ones where the VR really adds to the effect, there will be others where it doesnt add much at all.

          How would chess be better in VR for example? The feeling of being there would potentially be wonderful (if thats your cup of tea), but what would it really add to the experience when you're just staring at the board?

          All I'm saying is that VR has plenty of convincing to do before it makes it, and the last time something similar went through this, people walked away. Whats different this time?

            How would chess be better in VR for example? The feeling of being there would potentially be wonderful (if thats your cup of tea), but what would it really add to the experience when you're just staring at the board?That *is* what it adds to the experience though. The feeling as though you're actually right there playing a game of chess together with someone else right across the table from you, even though they're actually on the other side of the world. That is going to be huge, especially for people with housebound and international relatives.

            That's why it's a problem looking at it from an overly broad perspective of "oh so it's just a screen and a thing on your head", there's actually a world of difference between the two.

            The thing is, VR is pretty self explanatory. The only way to convince someone is to make them actually try it.

            What VR does is it adds immersion, to make it feel like you are there. What 3D does is to add extra effect to make the picture feels real to you. Very different.

    Was Palmer Luckey delivering that address in VR? I'm wondering if that's just an avatar or if he was actually wearing that shirt in real life?

    I'm a little worried about this myself, I get very bad motion sickness and I'm also prone to migraines. I haven't had any issues so far with our Oculus DK2 but I also haven't used it for more than 30 minutes at a time. Sounds like easing into it will be the way to go.

    Hours of watching TV will do the same, so does reading novels, playing Tennis, listening to musics, eating food and playing with your pets. Source: I make LP videos, 4 hours is the max even for a game I love.

    Last edited 18/03/16 11:17 am

      those are not the same as VR, its a completely different sensory experience one which our eyes/brain isnt used to. its like watching two back to back movies at the cinema, sure you feel tired and exhausted but compared to watching two movies at a proper IMAX which makes you feel like your brain has has become scrambled and when you walk out there is an issue readjusting your eyes to reality

      sure not everyone will feel it as badly but it becomes a completely way to consume media.

        My point is the author play for hours of VR and points finger against VR (base on a personal preferences).

        VR and other activities are the same thing in some sense. Some people are adjust to jogging for hours and walk just fine the next day, some don't and got they "normal walkability" taken away by jogging temporarily.

        VR => brain burns
        jog => legburns (?)

        i don't think this is right

    Simulation sickness is a pain and while you can get 'used to it' to some degree, I don't think it ever stops affecting you completely.

    To wit, many years ago I interviewed for a job with a team that developed and maintained flight simulators for the military. They had a setup with a room with a mock-up F-18 cockpit and projectors projecting an image in front, to the sides and above you so basically you got a full panoramic view of the area you were 'flying' in. I was told that after using it, pilots that trained on it were grounded for 24 hours because of the resulting simulation sickness caused by the disconnect between your eyes and your inner ear. I'd imagine VR would be even worse.

      It also messes up your reactions to reality. In the early 90s we did some testing that showed people drove terribly and made incorrect disatance estimations up to two hours after messing around with our VR driving game we were working on. The game never made it to the arcades, the fad had passed and the company ran out of money, but there were a lot of 'liability' discussions internally, and we were planning warning screens that you were not to drive after using the game. It appeared that your brain remapped to the in-game physics, and took a while to remap to actual physics when returning to the real world.

      Last edited 18/03/16 12:18 pm

        Yeah, the brain's ability to rapidly adapt can be a double-edged sword sometimes.

        Case in point: after I moved to the US it took me several weeks to stop getting confused which direction was north and which was south. Something to do with the hemisphere change and the resulting differences in the sun's position.

    This is why I’m not that excited for VR.

    I just can’t see it replacing my day-to-day gaming as a form of long term relaxation- I’d even go so far as to say I don’t want it to.
    If you play for more than an hour or two, your face is going to get sweaty, your neck will get sore from moving independently, your eyes will dry from the heat of being covered…. This stuff is unavoidable even if doesn’t make you motion sick or give you a headache.

    I just can’t imagine being able to play for any more than an hour or two a day at maximum over any reasonable stretch.

    I said yesterday it’ll be more like paintball or something like that- a hobby you put time aside for an hour or two on the weekend, something drop everything and commit to.

    Honestly, the idea of anyone playing VR the way a lot of us played Fallout 4 in the weeks after release really concerns me. I can see myself finishing a gaming session and then spending hours with a pounding headache, sweaty, pimply forehead and lasting motion sickness.

    I happened to be wearing a Fitbit during the day, and looking at my heart rate data later on, I discovered that I was constantly in a state of physical stress: my heart rate was over 100 the entire time.

    This is going to be an interesting thing, health-wise. I'd like to know what the data was for playing non-VR games and if it also happens then.

    Wasn't sure how I'd go with VR. Received a Samsung VR today. Considering it's definitely a budget VR choice it is incredibly immersive. I found 2 hours had quickly passed. No motion sickness while using it but felt a little queasy right after. Overall though not bad at all for a first go. It was enough to convince me to preoder Playstation VR

    5 hours of constant VR gaming, they should put a health warning in the user manuals... oh wait they did. Screw our own health warnings, just fill up people on ginger ale and put that headgear back on their noggins cause we need to sell VR.

    VR just isn't convenient, yes it may be brilliant etc, but some of us can't disconnect from the world for hours at a time. I'd be constantly removing the headset to, grab a drink, talk to the Mrs, stop the kids drinking bleach tripping over the coffee table. I think that would really mess with my head the constant on off on off. And it's something you have to remember no matter how good a product is if it isn't easy and convenient it won't sell.. some people tried to make the point with 3d glasses it's not that 3d tv was crap it was annoying.

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