HTC says it’s pretty sure a new car-based virtual reality experience it’s working on won’t leave you and your car smothered in vomit.
In a blog post, the company announced it was partnering up with in-vehicle VR experience maker Holoride to create virtual roller coasters and other virtual worlds for HTC’s portable Vive Flow that can be experienced as a car passenger. HTC says Holoride matches its virtual experiences with the real-time motion, location, and navigational data from a vehicle which means the games should change and adapt depending on the car’s movement. The headset maker intends to show off the experience to a select number of guests attending next week’s MWC 2022 event in Barcelona and plans to launch commercially sometime during the second half of 2022.
This isn’t Holoride’s first attempt at car-based VR experiences. Last year, they actually showcased some footage from a game called Cloudbreaker that was made in partnership with developer Schell Games which shows some of the ways the world changes based on a car’s movement.
If you’re like this writer, doing just about anything in a car other than driving can quickly turn into a motion sickness-induced messy situation.
According to a 2019 research paper, as many as 46% of car passengers surveyed in the U.S., Brazil, China, Germany, and the UK said they’ve experienced car sickness in the past five years. Another study published last year in the journal Scientific Reports, meanwhile, claims anywhere between 22% and 80% of VR users experienced some form of “cybersickness” a motion sickness-like issue that can involve “fullness of stomach, disorientation, vertigo, ataxia, nausea, and vomiting.” Logically, you would think combining these two potentially puke-inducing activities together would spell disaster, but in this case, HTC and Holoride say two negatives really do equal a positive.
Holoride claims it has extremely low latency levels, meaning its virtual experience can match the movements of a vehicle almost perfectly. In theory, the company says that synchronicity should eliminate most cases of car nausea. “By matching what you see and what you feel with almost no latency, Holoride is able to reduce motion sickness,” Holoride says. “More euphoria, less nausea.”
That sounds pretty good! Whether upcoming car-cased VR experiences actually work in practice though—particularly among the subset of VR users who tend to experience motion sickness even outside of vehicles—remains to be seen. Gizmodo is reaching out to see if we can get our hands on the device to test it ourselves. We’ll try to report back on this writer’s vomit status.
Strapping a VR headset on your kid’s head to get them to stop annoying you during a long drive might seem like a somewhat limited use case, but it tugs at a bigger issue: how will technologists and society prevent puke-filled driverless cars?
One of the great promises of the autonomous car era involved emerging technologies vanquishing the numbness of daily commutes, affording riders more time to catch up on work, watch a movie, or do anything else they would on any other screen. That techno-utopian vision starts sounding a lot less appealing though if watching the latest Netflix show in your autonomous Tesla induces gut-churning nausea. Fortunately, researchers at the University of Michigan and elsewhere are investigating ways to solve this problem, but it doesn’t seem easy.
In the meantime, nothing is stopping anyone from using VR headsets in the backseat of a car. If you do go that route though, maybe consider doing so on an empty stomach for now.