Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by Jonathan Bard, a Senior Programmer and Bioinformatics Analyst with the University of Buffalo, NY. Jon has suffered with motion sickness in gaming for years. We sent him the Reliefband to cut through the hype. Is the Reliefband the solution to motion sickness we’ve been looking for?
As virtual-reality technology becomes increasingly mainstream, many gamers are encountering motion sickness for the first time. But the sudden onset of gaming-induced motion sickness existed long before the advent of VR technology. The effects of old stalwarts like Portal, Killing Floor, and Battlefield have been discussed in detail on message boards, as have much older games dating as far back to Wolfenstein and GoldenEye 007 for Nintendo 64. A subset of gamers have felt both nostalgia and terror remembering brief sessions followed by sickness.
- MSRP: $114.99
- Function: Wearable wristband to combat nausea symptoms from a wide range of causes
- Sizing: Adjustable band that fits most adults; latex based
- Warranty: Limited money-back guarantee
The FDA certified the claims of Reliefband Technologies LLC that it could solve this problem by repurposing a wearable technology originally used to combat chemotherapy-induced nausea. The Reliefband uses neuromodulation, which is defined as “the alteration of nerve activity through targeted delivery of a stimulus, such as electrical stimulation or chemical agents, to specific neurological sites in the body.” In other words, the Reliefband emits electrical pulses targeting nerves in your wrist, which provides a different stimulus for the brain, which somehow blocks feelings of nausea. Although approved for chemotherapy, the makers of the Reliefband suggest it can be used to combat nausea during pregnancy, motion sickness caused during gaming, and a whole host of other nausea-inducing activities.
So, does it work? Being a longtime sufferer of motion sickness from both gaming-related activities to simple, everyday activities like riding in the back seat of cars, I jumped at the chance to test out the Reliefband. Looking very similar to a watch, the band wraps around the wrist and should be pulled tight to ensure maximum contact between the conductive surface and the skin. The band itself has five intensity settings, and per the manufacturer’s direction, they suggest starting at the lowest level until you start to feel the pulse sensation. It certainly does provide a mild, pulsing buzz. I was able to feel it at setting three, while my wife needed to turn it all the way up to five. A friend of ours felt it immediately on the first setting, so it does seem to depend on the person and how they’ve positioned the band against their skin. The wristband also comes with a conductivity gel, which is supposed to increase sensitivity to the pulses. Right out of the box, the wristband does provide a stimulus that is not necessarily uncomfortable, but does take some getting used to.
To test if the Reliefband actually combats nausea induced by gaming, I decided to perform a control test and then a treatment test. For both, I would measure the time it took before I felt unbearable motion sickness while playing a game that I have had issues with in the past. In my case, the most severe reaction to date came from the game Portal. When Portal was originally released, it took me months to work through the different levels, as I was able to play for only twenty minutes at a time. Each gaming session was followed by an hour of lying on the floor in recovery before I could resume. I tried every trick in the book, including having a lit candle on my desk (which for some reason is supposed to help), adjusting game options like headbob and field of vision, and even using Dramamine. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to help, so I chose to fight through the pain to finish a great game.
My control run of Portal lasted a measly twenty-six minutes. I felt the early signs of sickness much earlier in the game, around the ten-minute mark, but continued to play until I physically couldn’t any longer. After a couple of hours of recovery, I opted to postpone the treatment test to a different day as to avoid biasing the experiment. The symptoms were unmistakably motion sickness: it felt like the room was spinning, and I had strong general nausea.
After a few days and with the Reliefband equipped and on setting three, I started my treatment test. I decided to use the provided conductivity gel to make sure I was getting the optimal amount of stimulus. Although slightly distracted by the pulsing sensation, I was largely unhindered while playing. After a half hour with no ill effects, I was deeper into harder levels with more physics at play. An hour quickly passed and I still felt fine. Finally, after an hour and fifteen minutes of playtime, I reached a particularly challenging level of play and decided to call it quits. I chose to stop not because of motion sickness though, but because I was frustrated I couldn’t figure out the puzzle. Walking away from the computer, my wife was shocked to see me having no real motion sickness. For me, the band did seem to provide relief better than any other remedy I’ve tried.
While certainly not an exhaustive stress test of the Reliefband, I do seem to have a positive response to the stimulus. It certainly didn’t hurt wearing it, and I was able to play Portal longer than I have at any other time to date. At an MSRP of $114.99, it is a little bit of an investment; however, it does seem to go on sale below the $100.00 mark from time to time. I would say that if you are an avid gamer who struggles with motion sickness during certain games, the Reliefband is certainly worth a shot. I am excited to test it with more games and especially VR, which I had never even considered a possibility for me before now.
- Extended my gaming time by more than three times with no nausea
- Limited testing while riding in cars; seems to help with that as well
- A little on the expensive side
- Stimulus can be distracting (but not overly painful)
- Seems to be very person dependent, so individual testing is required
The product discussed in this article was provided by PR for the purposes of review.