We all love the idea of immersing ourselves in a fantasy, but the dizziness and nausea is too much for some to handle. Can Sony’s new patent help?

The world of virtual reality is limited only by the human imagination, or so it seems. Whether you’re wedding a handsome animated beau, strafing at Godzilla from a helicopter cockpit or even just enjoying a rain-free view of Tokyo, people can’t get enough of VR entertainment! Playing video games, however, poses a special challenge: people tend to game for long periods of time, often doing sensitive tasks and getting way more absorbed than mundane everyday tasks require. The longer you play, the more pronounced the effects of motion sickness (or as the Japanese call it 3-D-yoi, literally ‘being 3-D-drunk’).

Last year, Sony filed a patent that has just now been published to the public. In it, they produce a design for an extremely complex future model for their VR headset, equipped with such features as eyeball tracking, moisture and heart-rate sensors and even a gyroscope.

▼ Figure 1A and 2A illustrate the existing headset, with the proposed upgrades implemented in figure 1B and 2B.

The new patent for the HMD (Head-Mounted Display) includes a truly exhaustive list of potential features, intended to scan the user for a ‘baseline’ profile when they’re healthy. Then the multitude of sensors can track for changes in the health profile of the player, and… well, the system is primarily set up just to warn the user about the adverse affects on their body rather than rectifying anything about the actual motion sickness. For more drastic cases options to call for help or play distress signals to alert people around you are included, and there are also features that will minimize or dim features on the headset to try to annul the problem, but it seems like in most nausea cases it will just send the player a notification.

▼ The proposed alert system in the patent, where data received from the sensors triggers an alert on a remote device

Of course, it’s a novel feature to have the headset detect your body for extreme stress or degradation, like the proposed patent seems to do. It might even be useful to have the headset provide you with advice, information and access to help when in a compromised state. But it’s very easy to imagine situations where players are actually enjoying the boosts of adrenaline and panic, and the notifications in that case would feel more like an impediment to the experience.

On the bright side it looks as though Sony is also addressing a long-held concern about harassment from other players. The proposed list includes capabilities to mute abusive speech and even filter, edit and omit bothersome audio according to the user’s needs.

▼ Some of those ‘negative noises’ are probably intended as part of the VR experience, to be fair…

Several of the features, such as eye-tracking, could benefit players in other ways. Users are hoping it will spell out even more immersive VR in the future, so that you can dart your eyes to-and-fro around a virtual space without straining your neck. The proposed HMD is also fitted with its own internal battery… A potential nod to wireless capabilities? We’ll have to stay tuned to see what Sony has in store.

Commenters’ replies to the patent ranged from enthusiastic to cautious:

“PSVR2 is gonna rule, huh.”
“It seems like a patent to get accolades for the preemptive health warnings rather than telling us anything about the software capabilities…”
“It’d be really cool if it can move as precisely as they claim.”
“If your PSVR2 is always asking “You’re getting a bit nauseous, should we stop for now?” then you’ll never get used to the 3-D motion.”
“I agree with the above comment, there’s no way to beat motion sickness other than getting used to it.”

No matter what the future has in store for virtual reality, there’s a bunch of great places to grab some gear and transport yourself to another world. Though perhaps you should take a Sprite along with you to combat any 3-D-hangovers for now, just in case.

Source: World Intellectual Property Organization, Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: World Intellectual Property Organization