This isn’t a post to oust any particular genre of music from AltSpace because it doesn’t specifically apply to any genre of music and I am writing this post from the perspective of someone who suffers from minor sensory disorders and someone who is friends with people who have more severe sensory disorders. I have also have had to tackle this issue as a host after receiving feedback from individuals expressing their concerns.
Visual Effects Can Be Overstimulating
This one is easier to rationalise with as strobe effects or flickering can cause seizures for some people but for a large group of people this can cause a degree of discomfort. For some people they can tolerate it for some periods of time but usually they end up having to leave the event.
Obviously, this could have a ripple effect, one less person in the room may encourage friends of that person to follow. The problem with this is most people feel silly to say anything but this problem affects them.
How to create a visually friendly VR space
- Use minimal low impacting light changes and keep them to an area OR create a friendly space where people can take a break from the lights but still be able to socialise.
- Get feedback from people you know who can give you honest feedback and you can make changes and if you are running an event be sure to do this ahead of time.
- Depending on lighting settings on objects in templates and kits certain items may flicker and reflect light in a more irritable way. If you can try and minimise the amount this occurs in the space and check to see if this can be fixed in Unity.
- Less is more – It’s true!
Music and sound can also cause the same discomfort
You may not think of it but audio can cause the same level of discomfort. Not only that people that develop a intuitive sense for music develop this same irritation thus making this a highly undetected problem in VR.
Examples of audio that causes discomfort
I’m going to post YouTube videos with samples because it’s too difficult to explain in a blog by text alone. The first song we are we going to use is an example given to me by a dear friend who suffers from one disorder that makes listening to the song Bitter Sweet Symphony The repetitive violin loop becomes the focus and the voices and everything else get tuned out and they just hear the violin and becomes almost torture to listen to.
The next video is one I’ve randomly found that has some lyrics, has changes in their beats but this one is JUST a bit too repetitive for some people. This song isn’t overall bad and I have to say I personally don’t listen to this type of music in general so I may come across as critical but I randomly picked this song as an example because it was ‘ALMOST’ acceptable in my personal opinion.
What can hosts do
- Stream from the AltSpace Web Projector if you can or generally use a media player on the VR platform that allows users to control their music volume. At the very least people can choose to switch the music off which is good particularly for people with hearing problems who need the music removed to be able to hold a conversation.
- Choose music that doesn’t contain long repetitive rhythms and beats which can be hard to do for some genres like techno and live DJ’s but the secret is to mix it up a bit more.
- People can usually tolerate a song or a beat here or there so it’s not something you should avoid completely because there are people who equally enjoy it. But consider spacing these out throughout your event.
- Create areas where people can be away from visual and sound stimulation that allows them to retain in your event.
- Ask for feedback on the space from people you know and trust and bonus if they suffer from an impairment themselves so they can give you that critical feedback you need.