A Big Nose Featuring Steve Martin and Bird

If you suffer from motion sickness (or “simulator sickness” as it’s sometimes called) when wearing virtual reality gear and playing games, some research from Purdue University might pose an interesting solution. The report comes from way back in March, but a post on NeoGAF today brought it to our attention, and it’s actually pretty darn interesting.

Purdue University Assistant Professor David Whittinghill explains that simulator sickness stems from the problem that “your perceptual system does not like it when the motion of your body and your visual system are out of synch. So if you see motion in your field of view you expect to be moving, and if you have motion in your eyes without motion in your vestibular system you get sick.”

Evidence suggests that the sickness reduces when stable objects are in frame during VR. So, if you have the driver seat of a car and the dash serves as a point of stable reference for the user, motion sickness will be reduced.

In light of that, undergrad Bradley Ziegler suggested that they try rendering a fake human nose in the center of the screen. Whittinghill explains:

“It was a stroke of genius…You are constantly seeing your own nose. You tune it out, but it’s still there, perhaps giving you a frame of reference to help ground you.”

What’s crazy is that when they later tested inserting the nose, the research subjects didn’t notice it. They were “incredulous when its presence was revealed to them later in debriefings,” which is sort of a very funny moment to picture.

The researchers aren’t sure exactly why the nose reduces simulator sickness in VR aside from the theorized reasoning above. They’re hoping to continue the research and produce a predictive model for simulator sickness moving forward.

For now, the nose knows.