There’s a lot of scare media out there about VR inducing motion sickness and causing zombie-like users who are hooked in the virtual world. Any gamer is aware of this kind of scrutiny, mostly from those who neither understand nor use the technology. So far, even after extended VR sessions, we’ve seen nothing that would indicate long-term negative effects in VR. In fact, VR improves brain plasticity, motivates us to push past our physical fitness goals and has very real effects on our waistlines.
However, VR fitness is physical by nature, and there are some basic safety rules you should observe to make your session enjoyable and injury free.
Warm Up and Cool Off
The first tip is one that comes with any workout: make sure you stretch before and after your session. This gives your muscles a chance to get ready for the workout, and to calm down for relaxation where they won’t be utilized.
Plan your routine around rotating for light, medium and heavy applications that test your fitness levels. VR doesn’t need to be paired with gym time to see results, but it helps. If that fits you, then plan around your off days. Don’t hit a full body workout hardcore for 60 minutes on a day where you’re supposed to be resting. Ask yourself how VR fits into your workout, maybe a game like Superhot gives you some light cardio to feel like you’re on your feet and that’s enough. Maybe you’re looking to replace a day at the gym with time at home in the Vive or Rift. Look for VR games that test you accordingly.
Clearing a Space
VR proofing is a lot like baby proofing, except you’re concerned with what is at waist level. Here is a quick list to look for in and around your VR space:
- Sharp corners (like table edges)
- Tripping hazards
- Look for places the cord can get tangled
Take some time in some of the free applications you can find to learn your boundaries. It’s important to orient yourself within VR before you jump into a higher intensity experience where movement is key.
Movement requires space, so before you put on your headset, you should do some squats and spin around a bit to see what kind of unforeseen hazards might exist around you. One big hazard almost no one new to VR thinks about is pets. We flail around, and they want in on the action not realizing they can cause serious problems. Make sure people of all sizes and ages are clear of the space too.
That said, a partner is a good thing to have. We’ve seen that a partner offers real benefits to your workout, and prevents you from smashing head first into walls.
Caring for Your Peripherals
Exercise some basic care for your equipment. Mobile headsets are inexpensive, but the ones that offer six degrees of freedom generally tend to carry a higher price tag. Follow these basic care tips:
- Wipe lenses with microfiber cloths to remove dust
- Non-alcoholic bacterial wipes are good for before and after sessions
- It’s optional to cover lenses, but protectors are available
- Compressed air to blast dust away
- HTC recommends cold water for a basic cleaning, but don’t soak your foam pad
Be sure to store any headsets and controllers where they won’t accumulate dust, like inside of a container or beneath some kind of shelving. Frequent use will help prevent dust accumulation, but it can still become a problem if left unchecked.
Also: tight wrist straps prevent controller mishaps.
Motion sickness is rarer today than it was two years ago when these headsets first hit the market, but do take breaks if you feel nauseous. Not every title will induce motion sickness. Anecdotally, I have friends who feel it only on Superhot, and my local game center reports a similar phenomenon. It could be color or space related to that game. Superhot requires a great deal of movement and looking around; it may not be the ideal title for first-time VR users.
It’s also worth thinking about some kind of wire harness system if you’re concerned about tripping over wires. A link box is available for the Vive, and is rumored to work with a Rift, which would extend your play area a bit using Bluetooth technology. Coming into 2018, there will be more solutions to go wireless as well.