At eleVR, VR is a tool we use to think, to create, to experiment. To do our work we need to spend a lot of time wearing a headset but for beginning wearers it can feel impossible to get to the point where VR is not just a sickening novelty. I have worn VR nearly every day since May of 2014. When I started I could wear between 3 and 5 mins. Now I can wear (in the right application) between 5-6 hours. Some of this increase in duration is absolutely down to improvements in headset technology but even for beginning wearers starting out now, with the benefit of those improvements, durations are usually in the 10-15 minute range.
If that’s true for you this post will help. These recommendations will help improve durations for people interested in all kinds of VR (eg. games, social, training) but are geared toward giving people more time in VR tools for making/creating/working. This is a long slow process but hopefully with these exercises you see large improvements in duration in months instead of years. Think of VR tolerance like flexibility. We don’t expect someone who can’t touch their toes to do a few exercises and get down there in a day or a week. Connective tissue needs gentle stretching over time to change and so does VR tolerance.
Remember the goal here is to desensitize you to the side effects of the simulation: nausea, dizziness, disorientation, and faintness. We do this by both developing your virtual coordination and by practicing sensorial differentiation: learning to ‘believe’ your bodily sensation over your visual data. However simultaneously we have to avoid creating a conditioned simulation sickness response to the headset. This can happen if users try to “push through” the discomfort when it arises. DON’T! Always stop as soon even mild discomfort arises. One tip for those who struggle with coming out when it’s time: use a stopwatch to time how long it takes for you to start feeling ill after starting VR. The next time you wear set a timer for that same duration and come out even if you don’t feel sick. Repeat increasing the timer by a tiny amount (30 secs or so) each time. The more time you spend in a headset without feeling sick the better.
Guidelines for all exercises:
-While wearing take deep soothing breaths into the low belly to stimulate the vagus nerve. This reduces the effects of the stress you are putting on your body with VR.
-Stop as soon as you feel any simulation sickness.
-Take at least an hour break between sessions. Walk around to stimulate your inner ear and bring your vision and body back into its standard calibration.
-Many very short sessions in a day will develop tolerance quicker than long sessions.
-As your wearing tolerance improves you can lengthen the time spent in VR and shorten the breaks in between sessions but don’t eliminate breaks.
Getting your balance
When you are taking a break from VR or typing at your standing desk or generally just standing around shift your weight into the palm of one foot and prop your other foot against your ankle in a low Tree Pose (Vrksasana). Close your eyes for a few breaths and open them again. This exercise challenges your internal sense of balance. Wobbling around is great, it helps you find the edges. This ability to find your balance from inside will help you when a headset loses tracking and you need to ignore your eyes and instead listen to your feet.
On your feet
For this exercise I recommend a very mellow game that requires only minimal head motion. I will use Bait, a fishing game on Daydream, in this example. Start playing standing with your back against a wall. The standing position gently contradicts what you are seeing in the game and the wall gives you biofeedback about your position. Feel your feet connecting to the floor. As you fish, practice moving your attention back and forth between the game world and the physical world by shifting your focus from your vision to your body and back. Breathe into the belly. When you can do this easily step away from the wall and play free standing. If standing quickly causes dizziness, then experiment with playing in a malasana (a squatting position with the feet and knees wide). This pose is especially grounding and really helps emphasize bodily sensation over visuals. Adding a yoga block under the sit bones in this pose helps you ground down through the spine as well as the feet.
Now that you have the hang of being mostly still in a still world let’s try moving in a still world. Open your favorite VR painting app, I’ll be using TiltBrush. Begin standing with feet firmly planted about hips distance apart. Select a wide brush. Without moving your feet paint a bubble around yourself. Mindfully twist and stretch and bend and reach and fold to make the largest bubble you can. When you are satisfied step away and walk around your bubble. This space is called your kinesphere: the space your body takes up in motion. Doing this we can easily feel and then see this space. Repeat this small dance once a week for a few months saving each as its own sketch. Then go back and see how your bubble changes over time. Doing this exercise helped me learn to actively feel my body when I am moving in virtual space while also ‘seeing’ (and thus being better able to study) the traces of those movements.
For this exercise you will need an app which lets you steer a car or ship by tilting from side to side. I am using Polyrunner on Daydream. Sit on the floor cross legged. Use padding under the sit bones to help the knees relax wide and the spine to elongate. Put on your Daydream and launch Polyrunner. The first exercise is just to stay in the menu with the landscape zooming past, taking deep breathes, and turning your head from side to side slowly. Inhale for 4 turning to one side, exhale for 4 turning back to the center. Repeat for a few cycles then take a break. Take the headset off and lie on the floor returning to normal. Once you feel comfortable with the motion in the menu select normal and tilt. When you hit play you will be controlling a small ship flying through a maze of towers. When you tilt left the ship goes left, when you tilt right the ship goes right. Keeping your chin tucked gently toward the throat, steer by rocking the shoulders side to side, stretching through the opposite side waist and ribs. These are small subtle movements. As you steer keep the pelvis rooted and the neck long to strengthen the awareness of the whole spine and ribs.
These exercises will help you develop the body awareness needed to distrust your eyes when they are giving you information which conflicts with your body thus reducing simulation sickness and making VR an awesome usable tool for creation!