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48 hours in VR and surviving existential crisis

The director of a German games festival Thorsten Wiedemann has spent 48 straight hours immersed in virtual reality (VR), making it through with no reported ill effects.

Virtual reality headset makers are quick to claim that they have solved the widely reported problems with nausea and “VR sickness” that plagued earlier hardware. But if actions speak louder than words, one artist’s 48-hour, reportedly nausea-free stint in an HTC Vive headset speaks pretty highly of the comfort and immersion of the VR device.

“I had no physical problems, no burning eyes, killing headaches or nausea,” Thorsten Wiedemann, the founder and artistic director of the A MAZE Festival, told Vice after spending two straight days in a Vive headset for an art project called Disconnected earlier this month. While a panic attack in the 25th hour almost caused Wiedemann to drop out, the rest of the Wiedemann’s extended time in VR went off uneventfully, as you can see from livestreamed footage archived on Game Science Center Berlin’s YouTube channel.


Wiedemann wasn’t looking to test the strength of his stomach with this virtual trip, but instead wanted to see what it was like to spend an extended period of time inside virtual reality. The half-experiment, half performance-art event took place at the Game Science Center in Berlin earlier this month, in a showcase called Disconnected.

Wiedemann didn’t spend two whole days wandering around virtual reality in fuzzy pink pajamas to prove the safety and comfort of the hardware, though. As Wiedemann told Vice, the project was an early test of what he believes will be a common pastime in 2026, when it will be “normal that you jump into VR to meet your international friends in Social VR Rooms and go on crazy adventures together. But a long trip will be still special and could be understood as a controlled drug experience.”

Of course he couldn’t spend his whole time playing games, and he found nutrition through water, tea, as well as easily eaten foods such as chocolate and bananas. And all the while he took specially chosen medication to keep him bunged up and therefore without the urge to complete his normal functions, which would have interrupted the experiment. Some things can’t be done virtually.

To that end, “VR Shaman” Sara Lisa Vogl led Wiedemann through a series of games, demos, and “Lucid Trip” experiences to keep him occupied during his time. In the real world, the 48-hour marathon included 2.5 hours spent sleeping with the headset on each morning (spent virtually in “a cozy cave with a view of the stars”), and time spent eating “special liquid food,” bananas, chocolate, and medication designed to stop him from using the bathroom during the performance.

Wiedemann’s VR trip echoes the efforts of artist Mark Farid, who is trying to spend 28 straight days in a VR headset experiencing someone else’s life via streamed livestreamed audio and video. Farid tried and failed to pull off that ambitious feat during a 2014 Kickstarter effort. Motion sickness or not, that whole idea makes us more than a little sick to our stomachs.

Charlie James Tennant

Editor-in-chief

Developer, videographer, photographer and a stickler for English grammar.

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