Reliefband Review – A Shocking Cure for VR Sickness
Reliefband (version 1.5)2016
My tolerance levels for PlayStation VR titles is something that’s held me back from properly enjoying some of the more highly regarded experiences on the virtual platform. Titles that require a large amount of exertion from the player can be quite hit or miss for me; Sparc’s virtual racquetball-style gameplay gave me no trouble, yet trying to move and shoot in the zombie-ridden Arizona Sunshine brought about insufferable headaches that still plague me any time I consider trying it once again. Not wanting to be confined to the likes of Dramamine tablets to suffer through an uncomfortable VR experience, I was open to more experimental solutions to cure my sickness. That’s when my editor, Alessio, suggested another approach to try and alleviate my concerns with VR: the Reliefband.
Worn on the underside of my wrist, this watch-sized device emits a small electrical charge every few seconds in order to shock the brain’s nausea receptors. To quote the manufacturer, the exact process is as follows: ‘The Reliefband delivers gentle pulses to the median nerve at the P6 pressure point located on the underside of the wrist.‘ The result is a soft electrical charge against my wrist every few seconds: not very distracting, but easy to notice is there if you’re not actively moving that arm around.
Depending entirely on the type of PSVR experience I’ve undergone, the sense of nausea and a floaty, disconnected feeling typically hit me anywhere from the first few minutes up to a couple of hours in. For my first time with the Reliefband, I went with a seated experience called Accounting+ from the team at CrowsCrowsCrows that some might recognize as a Justin Roiland-voiced project. This was a title that I had the pleasure of trying out at PSX not too long ago and went through the brief 10 minute demo, only hitting the first onset of motion sickness towards the end. Much of the experience was stationary with the usual looking around and reaching out towards objects to interact with them, although there was some movement in terms of instant teleportation and rotating in small, segmented increments.
The Reliefband is recommended to be used on whichever wrist feels the pulsing sensation the strongest. Given some ongoing frustration with my right wrist, I opted to skip testing both hands and focus solely on the left wrist. The first time I placed the band on, I had to cycle through the five power settings before I could even remotely feel the charge against my median nerve. That’s when I realized that I skipped a crucial step: conduction gel. A small Vaseline-sized tube is included with the Reliefband and only a small dot is required to improve the device, much smaller than the amount of thermal paste needed when seating a new CPU heatsink.
That tiny amount of clear jelly smoothed out to a surface just barely wider than the Reliefband itself and made a huge amount of difference. When the Reliefband is operating properly, a faint charge could be felt against my wrist and even more so if I curled my fingers (like holding a PS Move controller) or bend my wrist. The sensation was still quite faint on the lowest setting, but the normal intensity setting is suggested to be on ‘level 3’ which was quite comfortable in motion. Any stronger than that would provide an almost painful sensation, turning the pulse into one more stinging than therapeutic. I certainly wouldn’t recommend experimenting with the higher settings unless your nerves aren’t responsive to the standard power levels.
The shock itself isn’t much of a distraction, or painful enough to cause discomfort when set to a lower power level. It can be most closely described to the feeling of electrodes used in muscle stimulation with a gentle pulse every few seconds. That being said, the Reliefband certainly isn’t giving just the placebo effect. My entire extended playthrough with Accounting+ was done without any concern for nausea or headaches, something rare for my experiences in PSVR. A second playthrough was done a day later and I could feel the onset of a headache coming on roughly twenty minutes in, spurred on by some of the camera rotation while sitting down (which in turn created a sensory conflict between my brain sensing movement but my body remaining stationary).
No more intrusive than a wristwatch, the Reliefband was an easy item to add to my checklist of PSVR essentials. If you intend on using it for more than just the occasional gameplay session in virtual reality, stocking up on more of the conduction gel and batteries may be necessary sooner rather than later. The included CR2025 (two of them) batteries are quoted to operate the Reliefband on medium intensity for about 120 hours, although that time is substantially reduced the higher intensity you require. Thankfully, swapping these batteries out is an incredibly simple process by pulling out the rubber cap from the bottom side of the Reliefband and removing the battery tray.
Unfortunately, the build quality on the Reliefband still leaves some to be desired. Trying to get the rubber cap back into place was a trial of patience as it simply wouldn’t want to snugly fit back into place without removing the Reliefband and squeezing the endcap back into position. If I wasn’t concerned about sweat or moisture getting into the Reliefband, I would’ve been fine leaving the battery cover off. The other aspect of the Reliefband that doesn’t match the quality of the device itself is in the elastic wristband. By not opting for a standard watch band design, the end user isn’t permitted to switch bands to something they find more comfortable or replace one that’s starting to fray and fall apart. As the band itself contains rubber latex, it may cause allergic reactions to some users and I would’ve loved to see some form of hypoallergenic alternative to those with more susceptible skin types.
Despite the shortcomings of the wristband, I’m happily surprised with the Reliefband. It’s become a normal addition to my PSVR experiences, even in titles that offered me no discomfort like Sparc. With how much I’ve put the Reliefband to use and surviving longer sessions than without, I can honestly say this is a must-buy upgrade for anyone that’s hesitant about jumping into virtual reality. The stimulation may take some getting used to, but before long, the Reliefband is no more uncomfortable than wearing a wristwatch.
Review unit provided by the manufacturer. You can purchase the Reliefband on Amazon.
Designed for those that suffer from motion sickness, both in the virtual landscape and reality, the Reliefband offers a solution that can keep players engaged in VR experiences that they couldn't otherwise enjoy.
- Comfortable for long periods of wear, even when not actively in use
- Instant relief without resorting to medicine
- Suitable for other forms of motion sickness, not just virtual reality induced
- IPX4 Splash Resistant
- Latex wrist strap not suitable for those with allergies
- Uncomfortable stimulation at higher intensity settings
- Conductive gel is a necessary consumable, although the one tube can last weeks of regular use