New Research Explores How to Stop Virtual Reality from Making You Want to Puke


Rachel Metz writes: I’m sitting in Gordon Wetzstein’s lab at Stanford University with a hacked-together prototype of a head-mounted display strapped to my face, using a wireless Xbox controller to manipulate a series of 3-D models: a lion, a chessboard filled with chess pieces, an espresso machine, and so on.

“…the technology has improved immensely in the last couple years, there are still plenty of crucial issues to be sorted out—among them that feeling of motion sickness that some people like myself have when experiencing virtual reality, which arises from what’s known as vergence-accommodation conflict.”

The images are fairly simple, run-of-the-mill models—the kind that anyone could download from the Internet. What is interesting, though, is what happens as I stare at the models, turning them with the controller so I can inspect them from different angles: I can focus on the different parts of the images at different depths as I would when gazing at something in real life, so when I look at, say, the chess pieces up close, those in the background look fuzzy, and vice versa when I focus on the pieces in the distance. And I don’t feel nauseous or dizzy like I sometimes do when I’m playing around with virtual reality, especially when looking at objects that are close to my face.

“In real life, when you’re looking at something—a flower, for instance—your eyes move and the lens in each eye adjusts to bring whatever’s in front of you into focus. With stereoscopic 3-D, a technology commonly used by companies making virtual reality headsets, things gets trickier.”

Virtual reality is on the verge of commercial availability, with consumer-geared headsets like the Oculus Rift poised for release next year (see “Oculus Shows Its First Consumer Headset, Circular Hand Controls”). Yet while the technology has improved immensely in the last couple years, there are still plenty of crucial issues to be sorted out—among them that feeling of motion sickness that some people like myself have when experiencing virtual reality, which arises from what’s known as vergence-accommodation conflict.


This conflict is what Wetzstein, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, and other researchers at Stanford are trying to solve with the headset I tried on, which they call a light field stereoscope—essentially, a device that uses a stack of two LEDs to show each eye a “light field” that makes virtual images look more natural than they typically do.

[Read the full text here, at MIT Technology Review]

Sample images show what it looks like to use the light field stereoscope to focus on parts of a 3-D scene that appear to be at different depths.

Read the rest of this entry »

[VIDEO] Greatest NFL Catch of All Time? Odell Beckham Jr’s One-Handed Feat


Roger Staubach, Americas Quarterback


The former quarterback on the Cowboys, his famed pass and his success in the real-estate game

Roger Staubach Justin Clemons for The Wall Street Journal; Grooming by Shelly Cervantes

From this weekend’s WSJ, a profile of one of my heroes:

“This year is our year,” says former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach. The legendary football player turned real-estate mogul is sitting far from the field in a glass-enclosed conference room overlooking the Dallas skyline. He’s a few feet from his corner office at real-estate company Jones Lang LaSalle, where he is executive chairman of the Americas region. Although he’s hopeful about the Cowboys’ prospects, he adds, “I said that last year.”

“A reporter later asked what he was thinking, and he replied, ‘I just closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.’ The next day, headlines read, ‘Hail Mary Pass Wins Game’.”

Whether they win or lose, to Mr. Staubach, the Cowboys will always be “America’s Team.” And at age 72, he says he sometimes still gets called “America’s Quarterback.” The Cowboys earned their nickname in 1978, when the National Football League released a film of the same name about the team. The previous year, the Cowboys had earned the highest television ratings and sold the most merchandise of any team in the NFL. Mr. Staubach, who played from 1969 to 1979, still remembers a Philadelphia Eagles player knocking the wind out of him and saying, “Take that, America’s quarterback!”


More From the Interview

What happened after you threw your famous Hail Mary pass?

“One of the fans threw a whisky bottle on the field hit the ref in the head and knocked him out. He was bleeding. I got hit as soon as I threw the ball, so I didn’t really see…I’m laying there and the crowd is silent and I said, ‘Oh,’then I jumped up because I figure if they’re silent maybe he caught the ball. And sure enough there are already some oranges out on the field because the Super Bowl was going to be at the Orange Bowl and the Vikings fans were counting on being in the Super Bowl. They were shocked.”

Read the rest of this entry »

America hates the Seahawks: It’s Geography


Reid Wilson writes:  No professional sports teams have to travel farther than the Seattle Mariners and the Seattle Seahawks to get to their nearest rivals. The shortest trips they can take for an away game is about 800 miles south along Interstate 5 to the Bay Area, to play the Oakland Athletics or the San Francisco 49ers.

That means Seattle teams don’t really have natural rivalries. Those closest rivals are, to be frank, more storied franchises. On rivalry weekends during Major League Baseball season, the A’s are matched against the San Francisco Giants. The Mariners are artificially paired with the San Diego Padres or some other orphan team. The so-called rivalry between the Seahawks and the 49ers, which the booth announcers will advertise endlessly when the two teams meet in the NFC championship this weekend, is a much more recent development. The 49ers are more traditionally rivals of the Dallas Cowboys and other, older NFL teams.

The Seattle Supersonics could claim a rivalry with the Portland Trailblazers, but then they left for Oklahoma City (Editorializing alert: The author, a Seattle native, remains unhappy with Oklahoma City and plans to hold that grudge for quite a while). The feud between fans of the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders, in the MLS, is real enough, but the rivalry cupboard is bare in baseball and football.

Read the rest of this entry »