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VR Industry Forum Begins Work on 'Guidelines' to Curb VR Motion Sickness

The 39-member VR Industry Forum recently began work to tackle virtual-reality motion sickness that threatens to impede the adoption of VR products and services if not resolved, Mary-Luc Champel, Technicolor director-standards, told participants in a Tuesday webinar. SMPTE organized the webinar to preview and promote the VR program at the July 11-13 Tech Retreat in Oxfordshire, U.K., that it’s coproducing with the Hollywood Professional Association.

The first thing the forum is trying to do is “identify” the “different criteria that can impact motion sickness,” Champel said. “The intention is to produce guidelines on how to create content and distribute content in a way that can have less impact on human factors.” VR motion sickness is a “very tricky topic,” Champel said. He used similar wording at October's SMPTE conference in Hollywood when he described VR motion sickness as more prevalent in one gender over the other, without saying whether males or females were more susceptible to the phenomenon or why (see 1610260054).

VR motion sickness is “not fun to test,” joked Nick Mitchell, vice president-immersive technology at the Technicolor Experience Center (TEC) that opened officially Thursday in Culver City, California. There’s “a tremendous amount of interest” in VR, said Mitchell. “One of the reasons why we set up the TEC was to give people kind of a safe place to come in and get in a headset and really take their time to feel out the medium and understand sort of what it means,” he said. Interest in VR spans “everybody from the creative community to the technical community to some in our artistic community,” he said.

Along with the interest in VR comes “a tremendous amount of hype around it as well,” said Mitchell. “There’s so much VR buzz.” He conceded there’s “a little bit of a line that you have to walk when talking to people because the interest level is so high, sometimes it can sort of cloud reality.”

The industry is “being very cautious” in targeting VR to children, said Mitchell. “Until we have a solid solution for light fields and displaying these multiple focal planes on a 2D screen, I can’t recommend that very young children spend a lot of time in VR,” he said. “There’s a very sensitive sort of development phase that occurs inside the ocular system" in young children, he said. "Without some of these techniques to get over some of these conflicts," VR for children is "certainly not something that I can recommend," he said.

The next big technical advance that likely will come to VR headsets is “we’ll probably get rid of the wires,” said Mitchell. “At least that’s a real desire for me,” he said. Newer generations of headsets also will bring higher resolutions and the promise of “a little bit less of a clunky experience," he said. “Beyond that, I think some of the big leaps are a little further out, and something that we need help with.”

Everybody in the industry is “asking the same question” about the “monetization” of VR, said Mitchell. “If we’re just doing this for monetization, I think the goal may be wrong,” he said. “We’re so early in the technology phase with a lot more work to do.” Mitchell thinks “the rush to monetization is a little disheartening,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I understand everyone wants to make money, but I think you need to look at the content and see, are you doing this for the sake of doing something in VR, or are you doing something because it should be done in VR?”

Work is progressing at the Motion Picture Experts Group on the suite of standards known as “MPEG-1,” said Champel of the looming “immersive media” spec activities that he co-chairs at MPEG. Once work on MPEG-1 is complete, the suite will be published at the International Electrotechnical Commission as the IEC-23090 standard on “the coded representation of immersive media,” he said. Five parts of MPEG-1 have been “defined” and the work started, he said: (1) immersive media architectures; (2) omnidirectional application frameworks; (3) new and immersive video coding; (4) new and immersive audio coding; and (5) point cloud coding. Work on some phases of MPEG-1 is already in draft form, and the plan is to make them public by year-end, Champel said.