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  • Writer's pictureJeff Rayner

How to Mitigate Simulator Sickness: A Guide for Virtual Driving Enthusiasts (VR & 2D)

Updated: May 29

Virtual driving simulators are revolutionizing the way we learn and enjoy driving, as they provide an immersive experience that's almost as good as the real thing - and in some ways better (repeatable, cheaper, safer, etc.). However, for some users, this immersion comes with an unexpected downside: simulator sickness. If you've ever felt dizzy, nauseous, or disoriented after a session in a virtual driving simulator, you're not alone, but don't fret... just like any motion sickness, understanding the source of the problem, can help you overcome it. Let's delve into why this happens and how DoT can help you mitigate these symptoms to enjoy your virtual driving experience to the fullest.

Why Do People Get Sick in Virtual Driving Simulators?

Simulator sickness, a type of motion sickness, occurs when there's a mismatch between the sensory inputs your brain receives. Here's a closer look at the key factors contributing to this phenomenon:

  1. Sensory Conflict

    1. Visual-Vestibular Mismatch: When you're using a driving simulator, your eyes perceive motion as the virtual environment moves. However, your inner ear, which helps regulate balance, doesn't sense the same physical movement. This conflict can confuse your brain and trigger symptoms of motion sickness.

    2. Proprioceptive Mismatch: Your body expects to feel physical sensations associated with movement (like acceleration, deceleration, or turning), but in a simulator, these are absent. This mismatch can further contribute to discomfort.

  2. Latency and Lag

    1. Even slight delays between your actions and the visual response on the screen can exacerbate the feeling of motion sickness. This lag can disrupt the synchronization between what you see and how your body expects to move.

  3. Field of View and Frame Rate

    1. A narrow field of view or low frame rate can intensify the sensation of motion sickness. Limited or choppy visual representations can make it harder for your brain to process the simulated environment effectively.

  4. Visual Quality and Flicker

    1. Poor resolution, flickering screens, or inadequate refresh rates can strain your eyes and contribute to feelings of nausea and disorientation.

  5. Individual Susceptibility

    1. Some people are naturally more prone to motion sickness due to their vestibular system's sensitivity. This susceptibility varies widely among individuals.

  6. Environmental and Physical Factors

    1. External factors like poor ventilation, uncomfortable seating, or inadequate simulator calibration can also play a role. Physical factors such as fatigue, stress, or prior exposure to similar stimuli can influence your susceptibility to simulator sickness.

What are the Symptoms of Simulator Sickness?

Motion sickness in any vehicle, virtual vehicle, or virtual reality is common, and the symptoms are very similar. The key is identifying these symptoms as early as possible. The most common symptoms include:

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness

  • Sweating

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Disorientation

If you start to feel any of these effects, please stop immediately and read the next section for best approaches for future mitigation.

What are some useful Mitigation Strategies?

Thankfully, there are several strategies you can employ to reduce the likelihood of experiencing simulator sickness:

  1. Gradual Exposure

    1. At DoT we construct both the simulator hardware and software. This means we consider ways to mitigate motion sickness, and we do so via designing modules that gradually increase the time you spend in the simulator.

    2. We've built our experiences for about 5 minutes each. Trainees start with a non moving vehicle, and the first few exercises are designed as short sessions. After completing each task, it is recommended you stop for about 5 minutes to give your brain a rest. Whenever you feel ready, you can progress to longer sessions that will slowly build up your tolerance.

    3. While we can't solve for it, we can help improve your experience time in the short and long term.

    4. After completing 4 to 6 mini modules, we typically find trainees are fine for 20 or so minutes, which is more than long enough to complete the majority of our longer modular experiences.

  2. High-Quality Equipment

    1. A little extra investment can make a big difference in your virtual driving experience. Here's why high-quality equipment is essential for a smoother and more realistic experience, and how it can help reduce simulator sickness.

    2. Screens - While low-cost options are available, we strongly recommend investing in high-resolution screens with high refresh rates and low latency. These features ensure a smoother visual experience, reducing the chances of motion sickness and enhancing the realism of the simulation. DoT tries to ensure all screens are 4k 120Hz or better.

    3. Graphics Card - The graphics card plays a crucial role in visual quality. We recommend using a graphics card like the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 or newer. Advanced graphics cards can process images more efficiently, providing a higher quality visual experience and significantly reducing the likelihood of simulator sickness.

    4. Cables - Connections are often overlooked as a cost-saving area, but they are crucial for optimal performance. For 4K screens, it's essential to use 8K cables to ensure the best visual support. If you ever need to replace a cable, always opt for high-quality ones. We have conducted extensive research on this topic and are happy to share our findings and recommendations to help you make informed decisions.

  3. Stable Environment

    1. We deliberately avoid the full motion simulation style, as there are many elements that combined increase the risk of sickness. Instead we ensure our simulator environment is stable, well-ventilated, and comfortable. For movement, we add virtual haptics, which we find the brain deals with in a more appropriate and acceptable way.

  4. Regular Breaks

    1. Take frequent breaks to avoid prolonged exposure. Short breaks can help your body reset and reduce the cumulative effect of sensory mismatch.

  5. Calibration and Settings

    1. Properly calibrating your simulator and adjusting settings to closely match real-world motion is crucial, though not always straightforward.

    2. Fortunately, at DoT, we offer a finely tuned calibration feature. This allows you to adjust views, pillars, cabin, and exterior environments to match user orientation, accommodating various heights and distances from each monitor. Within about 2 minutes, each user is ready to go with customized settings to match their perspective.

    3. In VR, the environment is truly 3-dimensional, so proportions, angles, and parallax errors are more realistic than on a traditional 2D screen.

    4. Additionally, we provide a wide range of customizable settings to make your virtual experience more intuitive and less disorienting.

  6. Focus Techniques

    1. Techniques such as focusing on a stable point on the screen or practicing controlled breathing can help mitigate symptoms. Staying calm and focused can reduce the impact of sensory conflicts.

 The key take-aways for overcoming motion sickness?

Simulator sickness can be a barrier to fully enjoying virtual driving simulators, but understanding its causes and implementing effective strategies can make a significant difference. At DoT, we can't guarantee that your trainees will avoid sickness, but through adherence to our guidelines, we can ensure your team get the best experience possible, and are able to increase their knowledge and ability to use the simulators for longer timeframes.

By understanding and addressing sensory conflicts, investing in quality equipment, learning in 5 minute modules, taking regular breaks, and gradually acclimating to the virtual environment, you can minimize discomfort and enhance your virtual driving experience.

So, buckle up, follow these tips, and hit our virtual roads with confidence!

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