Virtual reality has a lot to offer gamers looking for a truly immersive experience. However, one problem can force many players to stop in their tracks and return to the real world: seasickness. The researchers behind HyperJump think they may have found a solution.
At Siggraph 2022 – a tech conference in Canada celebrating some of the latest developments in VR – I had the opportunity to experience HyperJump for myself and can comfortably say that I would love for this motion system to come to my Oculus Quest 2 as soon as possible. .
To go boldly…
If you want to move around in a VR world, you usually have one of three methods to choose from. The first is to literally walk through the actual space you are in. This method is the most immersive, doesn’t require a controller, and – as long as there is very little latency – is the least disruptive. However, a clear downside is that you need a lot of physical space, or you will only be able to play a game set in a very restricted play area.
As a result, most games also rely on one of the other two methods: teleportation or smooth movement. As you can probably decipher from the names, the teleport movement has you jumping through space in a staccato fashion, while the smooth movement has you using the control sticks to move fluidly – like many other video games.
Teleportation is my preferred option, as even after a year of VR, smooth movements can force me out of a game in seconds. However, smooth movement is often more immersive, and it’s much less easy to get disoriented and lost than with teleportation.
HyperJump seems to combine the best of teleportation and smooth movement, creating a new form of VR movement that is better than the sum of its parts.
…like no one has been before
Motion sickness is usually caused by competing signals from the eyes and inner ear to the brain. Let’s say you’re reading in a moving car. Your eyes will be focused on the stationery book and other fixed points around you, indicating to your brain that you are not moving. Meanwhile, the fluid in your inner ear is being pushed around, telling your brain that you are on the move. Your brain doesn’t know which organ to believe, with the end result you will start to feel nauseous.
With VR, it’s the reverse of the above example that’s happening; your eyes perceive you are moving, while your ears believe you are standing still. The result is the same, though: the competing information makes you want to throw up.
To help get around this, HyperJump forces players to lean their bodies in the direction they want to travel. Lean forward to move forward; lean back; sofa to sink into the floor; or tiptoe to fly. If you want to change the direction you’re going, you have to physically rotate your body. This makes your brain think you are on the move, but without the need to have a lot of physical space to move around.
HyperJump’s second trick is to automatically switch from smooth motion to teleport when players reach motion sickness-inducing speeds. This helps keep your momentum going while keeping you from feeling bad.
Finally, to combat the disorientation that can come with teleporting, HyperJump shows you the path you’re currently taking, playing a faint beat in the background that matches your jumps, so you know when the next one is coming.
When I walked into the HyperJump booth, I was more than a little worried about what I was getting into. In the past, the VR movement has made me feel super sick, and the jet lag I was suffering from having traveled to Canada from the UK the day before wasn’t helping. However, I quickly learned that my fears were unfounded; I completed each of the test flight routes through the virtual streets of Vancouver and even spent some time afterward venturing out freely without feeling bad.
When the tester switched me back to typical VR motion, I found myself flying much slower – and within 30 seconds, I was asking to end the test.
HyperJump settings are still being tested and tweaked; but hopefully it won’t be long before it’s ready to be adopted by the best VR games. It’s easily one of the best forms of motion VR I’ve used, and while it might not work for every game, there are a few – like Lone Echo 2 – that would definitely benefit from its inclusion.