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New Study Finds Way to Predict Cybersickness from Prolonged VR Use

27 September 2018

As cool as virtual reality (VR) headsets are, they have a few drawbacks that include motion sickness. People often experience motion sickness after prolonged use of VR headsets, or even after just a few minutes.

University of Waterloo researchers have created a method to predict when someone is likely to feel sick from VR headsets. The method is based on the degree to which a user sways while using a VR headset.

The researchers refer to motion sickness during VR use as "cybersickness." Its symptoms include nausea and discomfort that can last for hours after someone has taken the headset off.

"Despite decreased costs and significant benefits offered by VR, a large number of users are unable to use the technology for more than a brief period because it can make them feel sick," said Séamas Weech, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Kinesiology and lead author of the paper. "Our results show that this is partly due to differences in how individuals use vision to control their balance. By refining our predictive model, we will be able to rapidly assess an individual's tolerance for virtual reality and tailor their experience accordingly."

During the research, the team gathered sensorimotor measures from 30 participants aged 18 to 30. The sensorimotor measures included balance control and self-motion sensitivity. The participants used a zero-gravity space simulator VR for long periods of time to allow the team to predict the severity of the cybersickness they may experience. The researchers used a regression model to predict cybersickness.

"Knowing who might suffer from cybersickness, and why, allows us to develop targeted interventions to help reduce, or even prevent, the onset of symptoms," said Michael Barnett-Cowan, neuroscience professor in the Department of Kinesiology and senior author of the paper. "Considering this technology is in a growth phase with industries such as gaming, design, medicine and automotive starting to use it, understanding who is negatively impacted and how to help them is crucial."

The paper on this study was published in the Journal of Neurophysiology.

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