Valve: "Getting people sick isn't a choice"

Chet Faliszek explains VR's future depends on defeating motion sickness

Standing at a makeshift pulpit during Iceland's first inaugural virtual reality conference Slush Play, Valve's Chet Faliszek has a simple manifesto: "Getting people sick isn't a choice."

Faliszek, who is currently working with game developers testing the Valve-approved VR head-mounted display the HTC Vive, says the future of VR depends on finding a solution to motion sickness in its users.

So far nausea in VR has proven a valid concern for developers. Earlier this year Walt Disney Imagineering's Bei Yang said it may simply be an unavoidable risk of virtual reality technology - the result of a "mismatch" between the VR experience players see with their eyes and the physical experience registered in the inner ear.

But according to Faliszek, the problems of motion sickness can be solved within the technology if developers think outside the box.

"Telling people they will be okay 'Once you get your VR legs' is a wholly wrong idea," Faliszek told an audience of developers and investors in Reykjavik. "If people need to get used to it then that's failure. It has to run at 90 frames per second. Any lower and people feel sick."

Countering a recent study that suggests adding a virtual nose to what the player sees will stave off nausea using that fixed and familiar point of reference, Faliszek argued it's the wrong way of solving the problem: "Putting a nose on the screen isn't the answer," he says. "When you do it right nobody gets sick."

The simple fact, said Faliszek, is developers need to experiment. Virtual reality changes how users "interact and experience the world," he says. "VR actually changes the game and experience - embrace that and experiment with that. Just because a game genre has been around for 35 years doesn't mean it'll work with VR. How do you move around in VR? Locomotion is a real problem. Or you might find out that that genre shouldn't exist anymore. It doesn't work."

"Even video games have existed for over 40 years. VR has only really existed for about a year. We're about Pong level."

In a call to arms to his fellow VR developers, he continued: "No one is in competition right now; We should all be helping each other."

"When it comes to VR we don't know anything. We don't know what we are doing. We are making guesses and play testing.

"Everyone should try everything because none of us know what the hell we are doing, so let's all try everything and share with each other what we are doing and what we learn along the way as we all try and figure out this whole damn mess without getting people sick."

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Latest comments (15)

Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.4 years ago
Valve are doing valuable work and should be applauded.

In the interests of sharing and for those who don't think locomotion in VR can be achieved I've just uploaded an edit of 2 examples.
Remember that both these companies put their brand image on the line when they created these experiences:
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Paul Shirley Programmers 4 years ago
VR has only really existed for about a year

Apparently I have false memories of working at Virtuality on VR games back in 1996. Sadly he's partly right in that everything Virtuality learned was seemingly forgotten after the bankruptcy around 1997.

I don't remember locomotion being a problem though and the last prototype system we 'skunkwared' was motion sickness free for 20+min sessions for me, up from <3 min in the arcade pods. That's longer than it takes some 2D games to set me off today.

Today's VR is a 100+ times cheaper but still dangerously expensive for mass success. I don't see much sign of anyone caring enough about physical safety either, a sure way to get VR regulated (or sued) into a tiny niche again.
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Rusty Buchert Executive Producer, WhiteMoon Dreams, Inc.4 years ago
I remember those days of 1995,1996,1997. . A lot of people think somehow it is a recent invention or commercial attempt. Gotta love ignorance or revisionist history. .I did work back then in VR, personally worked on Descent for VR. Learned a lot from it and currently applying all those lessons now. But back to the problems at hand. Tech does help, but at the end of the day it comes down to developers building games for it not trying to shoehorn in the game they want to make. Some of the points he makes about dealing with the Inner Ear are extremely valid, but to make that work people need to rethink rotational acceleration, translation, and avoiding seizing control of the camera especially for rotational movement of it. I would like to know what you mean about thinking about safety. First thing is have a seated user and no room space roaming around that folks have recently been chattering about (yes I see that as a lawsuit in the making)


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Show all comments (15)
Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.4 years ago
I think itís a shame that the pioneering work that was done 20 years ago seems to be dismissed in an attempt to get everyone interested again. I firmly believe history will look more kindly on your efforts.

Sorry if I sound self-interested but itís hard to discuss this meaningfully without drawing on personal experience. Most of the best VR experience (mostly in CAVEs) over the past 30 years had you standing. Physicality definitely improves immersion and I notice that all the main HMD developers make you stand in demos. We have taken the approach of providing you with a circular hand-rail which now goes all the way round. Walking adds massively to the experience but in addition to that empirical evidence from thousands of members of the public seems to prove it does solve the inner-ear problem too. So many people have said they couldn't use the DK 1 or 2 but experience no nausea at all on the ROVR.
Iím not sure itís possible to introduce physicality without any risk of say, falling onto your backside, but compared to most sports or sports equipment I think this is pretty benign. Keeping the player in one place seems like a good move. Medical consultants have warned us not to add a harness due to chaffing and because you need to be free-standing.

There was a view recently that someone would soon die in VR. Iím not convinced. However, if this did happen it could be as a result of driving while disoriented after using VR. The DoD have rules for pilots relating to this.
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Paul Shirley Programmers 4 years ago
Ah, the circular handrail, as seen in the original standing Virtuality pods 20 years ago ;)

I'm less worried about deaths due to VR, more about bruised shins or people stumbling face first into walls, closely followed by litigation.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 4 years ago
Hell, Sega had a genesis VR headset. Never launched, but they had one
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Marty Howe Director, Figurehead Studios4 years ago
locked in a contraption, and hanging onto the side rails with both hands for dear life.

This is VR?
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Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.4 years ago
Good question Marty.
It's one of those things that really works when you try it. If you attempted to explain to someone who had never seen a console that you could sit down, twiddle your thumbs and have a blast you would get the same reaction. We always ask first time users to hold the rails. After a while you can use the hand rails more as you would in real life, e.g. when going upstairs etc.
The impact of looking around and then moving you legs to go forward is without exaggeration quite remarkable. Its not applicable to all VR, just instances where your character is standing.
It's early days but we have already shipped units to many countries around the world and that isn't as easy a task as you might imagine :) I'm looking forward to trying the Virtualizer and Infinadeck too. As genuine innovators we appreciate each others work.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany4 years ago
Question that may be a bit offtopic, but I would like to read the opinion of you, folks.
Both in this comments and other media, it seems pretty clear that each person has its own idea regarding what VR actually is, so each person expects something different from it. Knowhing this, how will be VR be sold to the public? I see the potential of grabbing a wide market there, but what will be the strong selling point? the "killer app" for it?
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Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.4 years ago
Another good question. I believe it won't be one particular app but the accumulative effect of many genres.

Each time gaming tech has improved its found a wider demographic as it's started to make sense to more people. I suppose the hope is that VR and AR may expand that to include everyone eventually. VR is hampered a bit at the moment by the need to 'try it to understand it', whereas I think Microsoft are having an easier time demonstrating Hololens' AR potential. However, Magic Leap will have the same problem conveying the benenfits of variable focus.

Back to the point, with mobiles we've learnt that just porting old titles normally doesn't work that well. To the right people that's a wonderful challenge and game devs are some of the best innovators. We can expect some fantastic new experiences but in addition to that I think many things that may currently appear too mundane will work surprisingly well. One example is simply walking around famous landmarks or checking out a hotel. You may only do it once but if there are enough places to visit it would sustain interest. Many activities may not seem that dramatic in themselves but the pleasure comes from mastering them over time or just being there.

The best english word I can think of for this is 'eclectic'. You don't buy a TV just because you like news or sport or films but because you want all of them as your mood dictates.

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Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.4 years ago
I would add that a key component for exploration is photo-realism so expect photogammetry to become part of the lexicon

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Julian Williams on 7th May 2015 2:51pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 4 years ago
One example is simply walking around famous landmarks or checking out a hotel.
Furthering this point, while it won't be a Killer App, I can see museums and galleries getting in on VR, and that in itself will mainstream it more (especially if schools/universities have access). Super-HD VR tours of The Museum of Modern Art, The Louvre, or even places which no longer allow public access will get the Average Joe and their kids interested, I'm sure.
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I would add that a key component for exploration is photo-realism so expect photogammetry to become part of the lexicon
Interesting, I would have thought that the potential for the uncanny valley effect there would only add to simulator-sickness?

I recently had an opportunity to try my first VR game - Triangular Pixel's very entertaining Smash Hit Plunder, which entirely eschews notions of realism with a cute blocky Minecraft-like art style, and I didn't get the impression that higher-resolution art would have considerably improved the experience or its immersiveness. I didn't feel motion-sick at all either, although I only played for several minutes. I don't think games that require you to stand up would be fun for long periods, though.
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Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.4 years ago
@Jessica. I love what Katie and John are doing at Triangular Pixels. They have a great sense of fun.

I meant the kind of stuff the VFX guys behind are doing. They get photo-realism by using actual photos and rendering scenes that you can walk through using mid-range mobiles. It isn't cheap to do but they are making it much cheaper than before. My take on this is to compare it to the early days of synthesisers, where some bright spark realised it was easier to sample instruments than use discreet electronics to emulate them.

When you have a major architecture firm using the WizDish ROVR to sell their Olympic village design to their client, Dominator yachts using it to sell multi-million dollar yachts around the world (especially popular with ladies in burkas apparently :) and other major clients apart from Nissan using it to reach the public you realise VR is no longer a dream. This is an incredibly exciting time for the game devs who are curious enough to experiment. Yesterday's Oculus announcement and their assertion that you will be able to use the Rift standing can only help.

Yeah, standing and walking aren't for everyone, or at least not all the time, but it has it's place and really makes you feel 'you're there'.
Mind you, the main guy making our ROVR frames liked it and he lost a leg in a motorcycle accident. Others with disabilities have also loved it and a consultant physiotherapist wants to use it for rehabilitation once there is appropriate content.
Again, sorry if this sounds self-promoting, I'm just genuinely excited by the way things are going with VR.
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Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.4 years ago
It may be that the first games to benefit will be those where an HMD gives you a competitive advantage.
I'm not sure FPS in their current guise will be great. If you are sitting it's literally a pain to try to look more than 90 degrees round (and mixing head movement and hand control of view is the quickest way to make you sick).
However, in a game like World of Tanks where you can't rotate the vehicle that quickly it may be easier to scan the horizon with an HMD, assuming it has sufficient resolution.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Julian Williams on 11th May 2015 11:35am

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