The Wizdish ROVR Promises an Alternative Treadmill Solution to VR Simulation Sickness

by Alice Bonasio • August 31st, 2016

Suppose you’re playing a game like Fallout 4 in VR. In the real world you’re sitting down, but in the virtual one you’re running away from an oversized cockroach, desperately trying to stay alive. Bethesda is working on their own iteration of their iconic series, but not all first-person shooters are being remade with VR in mind.

Sitting while playing but running in the virtual world creates a massive disconnect between what you see and what you actually feel. Because the two don’t match, the gaming experience is disturbed. That same disconnect is what causes two thirds of us to experience some form of VR-related nausea, according to Dr. Charles King, Co-founder of Wizdish.

Wizdish Presentation

“Simulation Sickness is real, and you will throw up…which could of course be a severe impediment to the rise of the VR market,” Dr. King told the audience at Virgin Media’s Techstars demo day in London. His Oxford-based company recently graduated from the prestigious accelerator and is now gearing up for a crowdfunding campaign to finance the development of a consumer version of their product.

That product is called the ROVR which consists of both a platform and shoes that allow you to “walk” freely in virtual environments, supported by an enclosing frame that stops you from bumping into things or falling over. Although there were a few near misses in my demo — it feels quite slippery.

For a relatively early prototype, Wizdish’s client list is certainly impressive. They have sold to over 100 brands in 20 countries including Nissan, Wells Fargo, and The British Army. But although they have clearly been successful in their B2B strategy, and claim that over 30,000 people have already used the product, their sights are now set on a much more ambitious target.

“In 2013 there were less than 1,000 head-mounted VR displays sold worldwide, so it made sense for us to work with companies that had their own development capacity,” says Dr. King. “This year, however, there will be 12 million HMDs sold. By Christmas 2017 — when we’ll be ready to launch the next version of the ROVR for the consumer market  — there will be 500 million headsets out there, and projections for 2020 are in the region of 2 billion.”

A big part of the reason why people are so keen to try immersive VR is precisely because of the intensity of those experiences, but there are big questions around whether our bodies can actually handle the potential side effects. Some experts have actually gone so far as to argue for the banning of VR headsets, at least until we know more about the long-term effects of prolonged exposure.

“Walking is the best and most immersive way of experiencing both the real world and the virtual world; because you’re moving in sync with what you’re seeing, it solves the simulation sickness problem,” says Dr. King.

“Cyber sickness seems to be caused by a disparity between what the brain expects or anticipates and what the sensory system is telling the body,” explains Wizdish Co-founder Julian Williams. “Some of this is caused by latency and can be due to the quality of the sensors, or indeed a lack of sensors. Positional tracking detects where your head is in space and if it’s absent (as with the Oculus DK1, Gear VR, or Google Cardboard) just moving your head around can induce nausea. These are less of a problem on the ROVR as it rewards good balance, posture, and core stability by keeping your center of gravity in one place.”

Wizdish 2

Another major cause for the problem is disparity between your visual and vestibular senses, which can be described as the ‘inner ear problem’. It’s what makes you feel sick when you spin quickly on the spot.

“If your vision rotates when you head doesn’t, or by a different amount, most people feel ill very quickly. This is why traditional gamepads can cause significant problems when you use the joysticks for navigation,” explains Williams.

Our sensitivity to forward motion is usually less pronounced, especially if you gaze at the horizon — a trick I remember well from my constant battles against carsickness as a child. But it does vary a lot from person to person. As hinted above, I’m quite prone to nausea, whereas others might have a much higher tolerance to what sends me reaching for the sick bag. Interestingly, Oculus also found in their own research that there isn’t much consistency regarding which games cause nausea, as different people can react differently to different games.

“The most important fact about walking for us is that you don’t think about it,” says Williams. “You probably don’t remember walking to where you are now. We found that as long as you move your legs to traverse after a while you push that to the back of your mind and only concentrate on where you’re going — not how you move. This is the simple psychological trick that makes the ROVR so effective. When you first get on just the action of moving your feet around feels fun too. We have made sure that the ROVR does what it does extremely well. It may take a few people a little while longer to acclimate to it, as we all have different levels of physical confidence. We found that some experience of skating usually helps, but almost everyone can use the ROVR sufficiently very quickly.”

If you’re familiar with the VR ecosystem, chances are you’re aware of other treadmills on the market. The Virtuix Omni, for example, is probably the most well-known of the bunch. When I asked Williams how the ROVR compares to other treadmills, such as the aforementioned Virtuix Omni, he explained their product is much smaller, lighter, and easier to use.

“You don’t need to wear a harness or any special clothing, plus you can just put the kick-on overshoes over your normal trainers or similar footwear, which makes for a much better user experience,” says Williams. “We also have the patent for using a low friction dish design, which we haven’t licensed to anyone, and we’re first to market, already shipping to over 20 countries.”

Williams says that many people reported not feeling cyber sickness for the first time when using the ROVR. They believe that their solution, combined with mobile VR positional tracking, could largely solve the nausea problems in walking games, and they’re hopeful Google will include it in its Daydream spec.

“What we won’t do is add functionality that’s a compromise, such as leaning in order to walk, or kludges to allow for things like strafing,” says Williams. “We find that people prefer to understand and use the device within its limits rather than finding that it can’t do other things especially well. Taking strafing as an example, you might let people swing one leg to indicate this intention, but unless your body moves sideways to match the vision you can still induce nausea.”

Wizdish 10

They’re now taking the feedback from their B2B clients into the next phase of development for the ROVR 2, which will be a small, lightweight and collapsible version of their current prototype, although at this early stage they can’t yet say how much that will cost. But considering how much people are already spending on VR, the price of a vomit-free ride seems well worth a few extra bucks.

Alice Bonasio is a freelance writer with work appearing in well-known publications such as The Huffington Post, Newsweek, Playboy, and more. You can follow her on Twitter: @alicebonasio.

Tagged with: , , , , ,

What's your reaction?
Like
Wow
0%
LOL
0%
Dislike
0%
  • Tom Daigon

    I prefer a software based solution to locomotion that is based on walking in place. ROVR confines you to being surrounded by the elevated “guard rails” which limits range and kinds of body motion in Room Scale games. And the necessary stiff legged way of walking on the surface is stressful on the knees.

    • David Bridgland

      Tom, one major benefit of sliding is the fact it is GREAT for the knees. Running on a dish with a VR headset on is much harder on the body. And once you are immersed in a game you don’t think about sliding v running.

      • Tom Daigon

        My Orthopedist would disagree! When I described and demonstrated the motion to him ( when I was thinking about getting this product) he said it would not be good for my knees. 😉

        • Hi Tom. I guess it might depend on what is wrong with your knees. The fact that this feels a bit like skating, at least initially until you no longer think about it, means that it takes less effort than walking and feels fun to do.
          A consultant physiotherapist who tested it thought it would be good for rehabilitation. You should definitely heed your medical advice but you might like to show him the Wizdish ROVR video on our YouTube channel.

          • Tom Daigon

            Actually I did 🙂 He said that the leg motion he saw was not good for any knees. From my research it seems that Devs will come up with a software based alternatives that will include several less expensive ($811 not including shipping from England to here in the US) and less damaging approach.

  • DougP

    So a cheaper Virtuix Omni for mobile users? Sounds like what they’re targeting.

    That demo & movement tho’ – it looks awful.

    If was going for this type of setup, the Omni looks to be a far superior product (& method of input). However, from in-depth reviews it still appears to be to *odd* (not feeling natural) & *restrictive* (can’t easily move in different directions/strafe/change direction/etc).

    For myself, I prefer room-scale for the close-up movement (dodging/turning/ducking) coupled with traditional controller movement for running/sprinting.

    Re: “Simulation Sickness is real, and you will throw up”
    Also tired of hearing this over & over again from sales people.
    There’s a decent % of people (marketshare) who will NOT throw up & feel sick in VR.
    Quit trying to scare everyone to sell your product already.

    • unreal_ed

      I think you underestimate the %age of people that experience motion sickness. But most importantly, we don’t have good metrics for that sort of info.

      Otherwise im with you on the other points

      • DougP

        Understand completely & I agree with you.
        I know that SOME people get motion/VR sick. Perhaps a majority.
        It is hard to tell % from studies/reports, particularly as it’s only been fairly recent (last yr or so) where they “figured things out” on frame rate & not forcing movement & head tracking/movement & such.

        I just get annoyed with people (such as the quote I referenced) saying – “EVERYONE gets sick in VR”.
        That’s patently false.

        I was beginning to think that I, not (apparently) susceptible to motion/movement sickness in VR, was in some incredible “lucky” *minority*. I kept wishing more VR games would include “traditional locomotion” such as trackpad to move.
        Now I see the success of Onward, just released, and it appears that there’s a solid audience for this type of control/movement that’s not affected.

        So, again, I agree with you that some (high?!) % get sick…but it’s marketing/sales BS that says “everyone does”.
        And this kind of talk has scared a lot of developers away from even *enabling* traditional movement input in games as an option, for those who aren’t bothered by it.

        • We totally agree that traditional input should always be an option.
          The context of those particular comments was to explain to an audience largely new to VR that sim sickness can affect many people (DoD data) but that one of the key causes is addressed by the ROVR. We hear your point about the way it was described.
          The ability to stand, turn and move your legs to move within a first person game vastly improves the player’s enjoyment and level of immersion. This is only possible if game developers retain a standard input option so like you we would implore them to do so.

  • unreal_ed

    Man, they did it… they achieved peak doofus-look in VR.

    Also, who will want to hold on to a bar every time they wanna move?

    • Pete

      Not me. I would rather wear a huge diaper looking contraption to hold me in place. 😀

      Neither of these devices look promising. Keep trying developers, we will get there!!!

    • James Friedman

      Yeah he looked like he had to piss his pants and was looking for a restroom.

  • VR Geek

    This comment is disturbing “We also have the patent for using a low friction dish design, which we haven’t licensed to anyone, and we’re first to market, already shipping to over 20 countries”. Are these guys just patent trolls? Is Virtuix in trouble because they did not have deep enough pockets in the early days? Can anyone comment?

    • David Bridgland

      Not patent trolls. Wizdish was around and patented long before Virtuix. Virtuix were Wizdish’s 3rd customer, buying a ROVR in 2012, and their product came out after this. You do the math.

  • lol. I, just, can’t….

    Oy…

  • Sim sickness is an issue but the main reason for using a ROVR is that it’s fun. I know what you mean but I don’t think you get on any of these things to look good. It’s the enhanced experience that makes it worth it.

    • Tom Daigon

      At $811 (for the unit and needed shoes) you have just about priced yourself out of the market. And thats not figuring the shipping charge from England to the US.

  • Chris Braeuer

    2/3 get sick? onward proves that this is wrong. around 2% are complaining about motion sickness. Thats the same percentage for normal monitor games. If it is done right it works. I dont know why this motion sickness vr rumor is still a thing.

    • David Bridgland

      Yes. If its done right, it’s fine. But something like Temple Run VR on the Gear VR has me reaching for the barfbag within 30 seconds!

    • DougP

      I suspect it’s higher than 2%. Heck, it might even be a majority of people.
      There are are lot of studies, as well as reporting from developers’ own test labs/users, demonstrating that quite a few people feel sick with traditional movement in VR.
      I think that it’s hard to know at this point, as in the past we had a lot of people becoming sick due to:
      poorly optimized (framerate/judder) games, forcing “camera” movement, bad/laggy tracking, etc.

      I’ve put a LOT of people in my Vive & ran demos, & can attest that I’ve been pleasantly surprised that hardly any have felt motion sickness. However, almost none of these were using traditional / artificial motion.
      Here’s hoping that games like Onward will continue to support traditional movement/input for those who can handle it, as well that options will be available in games that can design around it, for methods of movement (teleportation & such) that don’t bother those who get sick.

      • Chris Braeuer

        I am into vr for month now so i know what i am talking about. If the movement is done right the % of sick people does not differ from traditional monitor games. It just has to be done right. Take onward for example or the solus projekt….

        • DougP

          Re: “I am into vr for month now ”
          Well, that doesn’t prove or mean ANYTHING.
          I am “into vr” for years now & I (apparently) know more what I’m talking about than you due to the amount of time.
          Unless you can point to a peer reviewed scientific study, or at a minimum some in depth testing say from a large software company & large sample set, your “around 2% complaining” is just a MADE UP %.

          That kind of made-up hyperbole is just as harmful to an intelligent discussion of the affects & methods to fix this as the people saying – “everyone gets sick in VR”. BOTH are wrong-headed & have no value.

          • Chris Braeuer

            Vr just started with the latest HDMs and thei 90fps thing. Everything that was before were more ore less prototypes. Vr started because we now have the graphic power, now we have tracked headsets and controllers. now we have a wide support of devellopers. read the reviews of onward on steam. everyone exept your 2% love how its done there.

          • DougP

            Re: “Vr just started with the latest HDMs and thei 90fps thing.”
            I understand this. However, there’s a decent % of us who weren’t affected by lower framerate & not fully tracked (position) head movement.
            Myself, I could (& have many times) spend hours in my google cardboard & Samsung GearVR: 60fps & lower & no positional tracking, standing UP in games & NOT feel sick.
            I’m not in the majority!

            Re: “everyone exept your 2% love how its done there”
            You keep saying “2%”, yet you are pulling the number out of thin air (or somewhere). Repeating the same thing over & over does NOT make it become true.

            Look, I get it. Motion sickness is most likely LESS of an issue than has been feared. A lot of bad press got out about it due to bad tech (hardware & software), however concurrently there are a LOT of major software companies & the likes of universities doing studies on the topic & reporting that ….yeah, sadly(imho), there’s a decent % of people who do not do well in VR.

            My point is 2 fold:
            1) People getting sick in VR is an issue
            2) Your **2% is “made up” & doesn’t help the discussion [ If I said it’s 37.458% – what does that do, other than make me look like a liar who doesn’t know what he’s talking about & someone on the other side will dismiss it ]
            **Note: If you’re not just making up your “2%”, please quote at least 2x reputable studies which came to this conclusion

            Pointing to the success of Onward also doesn’t *prove* anything about sickness in VR. People, including myself, who don’t have issues with VR motion, have been clamouring for traditional movement/input. These people have flocked to Onward & are praising it.
            Now, if you could point to a study showing that people who’ve traditionally gotten sick in past VR games are now NOT getting sick in Onward, well you’d have something.

            Again – I agree that it’s probably less than “the vast majority of people” getting sick in VR, as has been traditionally stated. However, from the evidence that’s out there (from studies & testing at software companies) it does seem to indicate that it’s a high enough % (somewhere well north of 2%) that it matters.

          • Chris Braeuer

            Let it be 5%. And thats about the same % of a traditional monitor game were people get sickness.
            1 check the reviews in onward. compare them to other games. if 40% would be right the reviews would reflect that by now.
            2, A dev told me when he showed his new game to the public, also said less than 5%

            please dont compare phone pseudo vr to the vive. thats insulting.

          • DougP

            Re: “Let it be 5%. ”
            Why settle for one made-up # over another?

            Re: “check the reviews in onward”
            Check the reviews for Tesla Model X. Is PROVES that everyone wants a high speed, all electric SUV. Less than 2% of the people who bought it didn’t want it’s features!
            Check the reviews for Skyrim – less than 2% of the people who bought it don’t like/are bored by RPGs.

            UNLESS you can demonstrate ( we know you can’t ) that a majority of people who DO get sick with artificial motion from other games are now NOT getting sick in Onward, that comment is useless.

            Re: “please dont compare phone pseudo vr to the vive. thats insulting.”
            Are you like 12yo? Or intentionally being obtuse? (I realize those aren’t not mutually exclusive)

          • Chris Braeuer

            But you cant belief in the studies too! First they are old. You dont know with what they tested.(game/exp.)
            Did they always run on 90fps? That seems to be the key when it comes to ms. What was the input method?
            What people were tested? For example when i give my mother a gamepad and a monitor version of skyrim she gets motion sickness. Did they use head stearing? another ms trigger! So i can only rely in the end what i saw when i let people try my vive. And all(30 so far) had no problems with ms. some were none gamers.
            On of the 30 could not see a thing but he has a one sided eye abnormality so he saw double immages.
            if it was 30% or more at least 10ppl would have complained. and i dont think it was just luck. i am prone to motion sickness but i know the point when it becomes uncomfortable, thats the point were otheres get ms and thats always when the framerate drops.

          • DougP

            My reason for mentioning mobile (cardboard/gearVR) was exactly the fps topic.
            That *I* have played at 60fps & lower, standing/turning, without positional tracking for hours & didn’t get sick.
            However, MANY people would. So our tolerances vary greatly.

            Re: “And all(30 so far) had no problems with ms”
            Fine, but I don’t suspect you’ve had 30 people so far playing Onward (it just came out this week).
            Also, it depends on the people. Even if you did have 30 people in Onward (again, don’t believe you have) & they didn’t feel sick, that’s not a proper study. What is THOSE people are less prone? What games/experiences did you put these 30 people through? How long? Age/health condition? Gamers vs non gamers? etc?
            Double-blind study that is not.

            I’ve also put quite a few people in VR as well. However, I’ve only had a few in games using traditional motion input.
            Windlands is an extreme example, however I was impressed that the few in it actually did ‘ok’.

            We are in agreement on the primary concept – most likely not as many people are affected by VR motion sickness if implemented “correctly” (certain ways).
            What we don’t know, neither of us, is what % of people WILL be affected no matter what.
            From studies/evidence thus far – I don’t believe it’s as low are your repeatedly stated “2%”, nor as low as 5%.
            Maybe it is lower than the “majority” (i.e. <50.1%) that's now so often claimed.
            However, until there are more studies/evidence to demonstrate otherwise, logic dictates that a quite meaningful % of the population is affected. Such that it may affect the designs of locomotion in VR games/experiences going forward.

          • Chris Braeuer

            about 20 tried the solus projekt. which has the same movement method as onward. but everyone tried at least 1 cockpit game. Studies always use an averidge of the population. 50% non gamers. gamers that get motion sick usually dont play 1st or 3rd person games. Sure the percentage is higher. what i am trying to say is if you do it right 90fps, logic locomotion(no head steering) the percentage is equal to monitor games.
            A am also talking only for games exp. that were made for vr. Things that run tthrough emulators and are forced to be vr have a much higher percentage for obvious reasons.

  • Company selling VR sickness solution claims it is an issue for 2/3 of users. Cool story bro.

  • duked

    Is WizDish/Omni really better than running-in-place? Cause the latter sent me running for the puke bag…

    • David Bridgland

      Moving on a Wizdish/Omni matches what you’re seeing in the headset. Running-in-place doesn’t do this, and this mismatch causes the sim-sickness you’re experiencing.

  • VR Geek

    Wizdish ROVR has the same fundamental flaw as the Virtuix Omni. Your feet are not tracked 1:1 and thus speed of movement in game has not correlation to your feet and for me at least causes even more VR sickness than without.