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05 April 2016

Beware the Perils of 'Oculus Face': VR Headset Leaves Embarrassing Red Marks and Can Cause Wearers to Feel 'Seasick'

Oculus and Sony both posted health and safety warnings
outside their booths on the GDC show floor, cautioning
attendees trying the Rift and PlayStation VR that they may
feel motion sickness, nausea, disorientation and blurred
vision.  Sony's headset is shown above.
Beware the perils of 'Oculus face': VR headset leaves embarrassing red marks and can cause wearers to feel 'seasick'
by Sarah Griffiths for MailOnline
31 March 2016

- Journslists testing the Oculus Rift have reported red marks on their faces
- Temporary marks have been dubbed 'Oculus face' and 'Rift rash'
- $599 (£417) gadget started shipping to buyers and requires high-end PC
- Some users have also reported feeling nauseous and woozy

The first gamers to get their hands on the full Oculus Rift have noticed embarrassing side-effects to wearing Facebook's virtual reality headset.

While the $599 (£417) gadget may immerse them in realistic fantasy scenes, it has left some users with red-faced - literally.

The awkward marks have been dubbed 'Oculus face' or 'Rift rash' and are part of the perils of the innovative technology.

Journalists Ben Popper of The Verge and Steve Kovash and Ben Gilbert, from Tech Insider shared photos of themselves with Oculus face on Twitter, with Mr Popper writing: 'The new walk of shame: Oculus face after a VR bender'.
The first batch of gamers are receiving the headsets, with more reports of 'Oculus face' expected, because the headset has just been shipped to buyers.

The marks are caused by the pressure of the headset's straps and spongy rim on the face, leaving the wearer with temporary red marks.

They seem to oppose Oculus' description on its website that says: 'Customisable, comfortable, adaptable, and beautiful, Rift is technology and design as remarkable as the experiences it enables.'

But it's not known whether other people will experience the cosmetic problem, or whether other headsets such as HTC's Vive or Sony's Playstation VR will also leave users with temporary marks.

The bigger concern, instead, is the fact they are also causing some people to feel sick.

Speaking at this week's Games Developers Conference in San Francisco, Evan Suma, an assistant professor who studies VR at the University of Southern California said: 'The challenge is that people's sensitivity to motion and simulator sickness varies wildly.'

This means it's tricky for game makers to create titles that are thrilling and immersive, not just nauseous.

The low-latency headsets from Oculus, HTC and Sony are intended to right the nausea-inducing wrongs of their VR predecessors from 20 years ago, but many users still report feeling woozy after using souped-up systems, such as the Oculus Rift.

There's still concern the immersive technology may force players to lose more than a battle with an alien. They could also lose their lunch.

Hilmar Petursson, CEO of CCP Games, which is developing several VR games, including the sci-fi dogfighting simulator 'EVE: Valkyrie, said: 'It's been a huge focus of development. We want super comfort all the way.'

Petursson said the developers of Valkyrie opted to surround seated players with a virtual cockpit to ground and shelter them from the effects of appearing to whiz through space past asteroids, missiles and ships.

Other designers are attempting to tackle the problem by limiting movement in virtual worlds and not inundating players with head-spinning stimuli.

'If you have something for your brain to fixate on as the thing that matches similar inputs you're given when sitting in the real world, you're going to be feeling a lot better,' said Palmer Luckey, co-founder of Oculus, which ignited the latest VR revolution in 2012.

Oculus and Sony both posted health and safety warnings outside their booths on the GDC show floor, cautioning attendees trying the Rift and PlayStation VR that they may feel motion sickness, nausea, disorientation and blurred vision.

Those effects were felt by many attendees.

'After a morning's worth of different Rift games, I felt disorientated, a touch nauseous and distinctly headachey,' wrote Keza MacDonald on the gaming site Kotaku.

'After five hours, I felt like I needed a lie-down in a dark room.'

Kimberly Voll, senior technical designer at Radial Games, noted during her GDC speech about the effects of VR on the brain that more academic research about VR should be conducted.

'We really need to look hard at the effects of long-term exposure to VR, the psychological effects and what we can say about the power of our VR experiences,' she said.

With hype for VR at an all-time high and pre-orders for the Rift and HTC Vive sold out, it's no longer a question of if consumers will want to experience VR, but how they will cope with it.

For example, will two hours of solid game playing be too nauseous to handle?

Mr Luckey said: 'With the current technology, it's iffy, but it's all technologically solvable.

'It's not like we're saying, 'Oh no. We can't get any better. This is a dead end.' We have tons of ways to make this higher resolution, lighter weight and more comfortable.

'Eventually, the goal is to make something that's not much heavier than a pair of sunglasses.'

For many who've tried VR, it's not an issue at all. Hidden Path Entertainment founder Jeff Pobst said he recently spent 15 hours wearing the Rift headset while playing the VR version of his strategy game, Defense Grid 2.

'I was happy. I even did it with glasses on and didn't take the headset off to put in my contacts,' he said.

'It all depends on the person and the experience. When there's not a lot of movement and the controls aren't tiring, I think you can be in VR indefinitely.'


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