Microsoft Research has unveiled a hack which could help to solve some of the issues relating to nausea in virtual reality: SparseLightVR.
Anyone who has experienced Philips Ambilight technology or its multitudinous homebrew knock-offs will be familiar with the concept of extending a display beyond its official boundaries. In Ambilight systems, a series of RGB LEDs mounted to the rear of the display's edges provide reactive ambient lighting which adjusts its brightness and hue depending on what's happening on-screen - giving the impression that the action extends beyond the confines of the panel itself. SparseLightVR is the self-same concept extended to virtual reality.
Current-generation virtual reality headsets suffer from a relatively narrow field of vision compared to the human eye. When you're concentrating on objects right in front of you, that's not too much of a problem; try to track objects in your periphery, however, and you can struggle. Worse, the narrow FoV can lead to nausea - but Microsoft claims SparseLightVR helps with both issues.
Using a series of programmable LEDs and a diffusing layer hacked into an Oculus Rift DK2 headset, Microsoft Research claims that its experiments have proven the concept: users found the VR experience more immersive, were able to locate specific objects in a given scene more rapidly, and experienced less nausea than when using an unmodified headset.
While Microsoft has released a video demonstrating the technology, reproduced below, the company has not yet indicated whether any plans are afoot to bring SparseLightVR to commercial virtual reality platforms, either as an upgraded headset or an aftermarket add-on.