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Consumers can still get sick after exercising in VR

05 February 2021
Players were found to still get sick as much as 40 minutes after playing Beat Saber in virtual reality. Source: Beat Games

Virtual reality (VR) exercise is growing in popularity with the release of fitness games on the Nintendo and PlayStation consoles.

However, researchers from the University of South Australia (UNiSA) have released a new study about the potential side effects of VR fitness, particularly in the first hour after exercising.

The study tested the effect of VR fitness on gamers’ vision, nausea and reaction times after both a short (10 minute) and long (50 minute) game play on “Beat Saber,” a popular VR rhythm game where players slice blocks with musical beats. Researchers found that one in seven players still reported VR sickness 40 minutes after playing/exercising.

In a new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, UniSA researchers investigated the consequences of playing one of the most popular VR exergames — Beat Saber — finding that one in seven players still reported VR sickness 40 mins after they had finished playing. VR sickness causes symptoms that are similar to motion sickness.

"There's no doubt that VR provides unparalleled benefits to a range of applications, but it's important to be wary of how new technologies can affect you, both during and after play," said Ancret Szpak, researcher at UNiSA. He noted that because VR is still in its infancy, there is still much to learn about the technology and its impact on the mind and body.

"VR is particularly promising for exergaming as it keeps players absorbed in the virtual world while distracting them from feelings of physical effort of exercise,” Szpak said. “In this way, people who are not particularly excited about exercise, can still get their game on and get moving.”

Szpak said VR exergamers should try to keep a VR session brief to make sure they can tolerate it before playing longer. Additionally, it is wise to wait and see how someone feels after playing/exercising before taking on a higher-risk activity such as driving or working.

The full research can be found in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

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