How to Avoid Virtual Reality Sickness

Try these tips to overcome VR queasiness

Woman using a VR headset taking measures to avoid virtual reality sickness

Benjamin Torode / Getty Images

You just tried virtual reality (VR) for the first time, and while you loved the experience, you didn't love the queasiness and sense of disorientation that came over you. Does a bout with VR sickness mean you should permanently avoid VR experiences and puzzle games?

Fortunately, there are things you can do to mitigate VR sickness. Here are some tips for getting your sea legs, or "VR legs."

A VR environment is different from a regular gaming environment. Because of this, some users will experience nausea after just a few minutes when exploring a virtual world, while others won't be struck by any illness whatsoever.

Start With Seated VR Experiences

There's an old saying that goes, "You have to crawl before you can walk.” This wisdom is often true of virtual reality experiences, but think of it as, "You've got to sit before you can stand."

When you first step into a fully immersive VR world, your brain may become overwhelmed with input. Add the complexity of balancing yourself while this new VR world is moving around you, and the experience may overload your senses and bring on feelings of nausea, dizziness, and general disorientation.

Look for VR experiences and games that offer a seated option, which reduces problems with the effects VR may have on your sense of balance.

If you've already experienced nausea with VR, stay away from VR flight simulators and driving games. Even though they are seated experiences, they still may be too intense, especially if they simulate things such as barrel-roll maneuvers. Those moves can sicken even people with iron stomachs.

Move to a Simple Standing Game

When you think you're ready to try a standing experience, start with something simple, such as Google’s Tiltbrush or a similar art program where you are in complete control of a relatively static environment.

This gives you experience navigating and exploring a room-scale-type environment while you focus on your painting. This approach gives your brain time to get used to this brave new world and stop any motion-induced VR sickness.

Look for Comfort Mode Options

VR app and game developers are aware that some people are sensitive to VR-related side effects, so many add "comfort settings" to their offerings.

These settings change such things as the user’s field-of-view and point-of-view or add static user-interface elements that move with the user. These visual anchors help reduce motion sickness by giving the user something to focus on.

A great example of a well-implemented comfort setting option is the Comfort Mode available in Google Earth VR. This setting narrows the user's field of view but only when they are traveling from one location to another. Narrowing focus during simulated physical motion makes that portion of the experience more tolerable without taking away from the overall experience. When the travel part is complete, the field of view widens and is restored so the user doesn't miss out on the sense of scale that Google Earth so grandly provides.​

Make Sure Your PC Can Handle VR

While it may be tempting to buy a VR headset and use it with your existing PC, if that PC doesn't meet the minimum VR system requirements established by the headset's manufacturer, system-performance issues could ruin the experience or induce VR sickness.

Oculus, HTC, and others have established benchmark minimum system specifications to help make sure PCs have enough power to achieve the proper frame rate needed to create a comfortable and consistent experience. If your brain notices any lag between the motion your body is making relative to what your eyes are seeing, any delay produced by substandard hardware breaks the illusion of immersion, possibly inducing feelings of illness.

If you’re prone to VR sickness, consider going above and beyond the minimum VR specs to give yourself the best possible chance for a VR sickness-free experience. Additional speed and power is never a bad thing when it comes to VR.

Increase Your VR Exposure Time Slowly

If you've resolved all the technical issues and tried the other tips, and you're still having VR sickness issues, you may simply need more time and exposure to VR.

Be patient and don't try to push through the discomfort. Your body needs time to adjust. Take frequent breaks and avoid VR experiences and games that don't sit right with you. Try them again after you have more experience.

VR should be an enjoyable experience that you look forward to, not something you dread. Experiment with these tips, gain exposure, and hopefully, your VR sickness will become a distant memory.

Not everyone who tries VR gets sick or nauseous. You may have no problem at all. How your brain and body react to VR is very individual, and you won't know until you try.