Motion sickness and nausea are still significant barriers to entry for widespread consumer and industrial adoption of VR. Meta’s Quest Pro users have noted that the passthrough features and optional light-blocking blinders have made risk of nausea and disorientation more acute. Proprioception disorientation—the uncanniness of experiencing your limbs where you don’t expect them to be relative to the rest of your body or spatial position—is one of main causes of discomfort in VR. It’s the main reason we don’t yet have legs in Meta’s Horizon Worlds. Gamers and soldiers alike have complained of headaches, eyestrain, nausea, and disorientation even after brief use of headsets. FTI researchers didn’t make it past the Quest Pro setup without having to lie on the floor of the bathroom in a cold sweat. Toby Shulruff, senior technology safety specialist at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, warns, “As we go from ‘always on’ to ‘always in,’ the constant immersion may cause physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual effects including stress reactions, headaches, disturbed sleep, and detachment.” And it’s not just nausea—using VR in particular also presents risk of side effects such as dissociation and derealization. VR developers and hardware companies will need to come up with better warnings, guidance, and trauma-informed VR aftercare practices to make spending any time in the metaverse physically and mentally sustainable for many users.
Motion sickness and VR nausea