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A new probe on how people accommodate cybersickness from VR

Virtual reality has been prevalent for decades and gives hopes for a lunge for adverse fields. Also known as immersive multimedia, this is a computer-simulated environment that can stimulate physical presence. A blend of higher-resolution graphics streamlined user movement tracking, and sleeker headsets, it hurls immersive technology in arenas beyond military training and gaming. In the field of health care, VR is necessarily used to prepare surgeons for operations whilst helping burn patients effectively to manage their pain.

It has furthermore invigorated an opportunity for students to tour popular museums, historical sites, and the human brain. Jonathan Kelly, a professor of Psychology and human-computer interaction at Lowa State University condemns cybersickness as being the biggest barrier to VR. Varied studies reflect that more than half of first-time users of headsets experience the phenomenon only within 10 minutes of being exposed to VR.

This is when individuals are prone to experiencing several symptoms such as headaches, sweating, nausea, dizziness, eye fatigue, and a sense of movement that often imbricates with other forms of motion sickness, caused due to conflicting sensory information.

Kelly further added that whilst reading a book in a moving car, the eyes recognize a stationary environment, whereas parts of the brain and inner ear are involved in spatial hoists turns, bumps and accelerations.

This is however contrary to what the virtual setting is all about. The visual system of an individual perceives the rush of a roller coaster ride whilst thriving on a coach. The research team remarked that individuals often get adapted to sea sickness through repeated exposure. They get accustomed after spending days on a boat and start to feel better. Kelly and his team ventured on to figure out to what extent can people adapt to cyber sickness and whether the adaptation in VR experience can get carried over to others or not.

A study conducted on 150 undergraduate students exhibit symptoms to improve with only three 20-minute sessions. However, several women and people prone to motion sickness face a hard time adjusting to cybersickness in addition to different VR environments.

Kelly and a Ph.D. student in psychology and human-computer interaction, Taylore Doty along with two industrial and manufacturing systems engineering experts, Associate Professor Stephen Gilbert and Professor Michael Dorneich chose participants with zero experience with VR technology.

The first three visits to Kelly’s lab witnessed participants playing the same VR game, Jurassic World Aftermath for 20 minutes. The researchers made the game fun enough to end it only due to cyber sickness and not due to boredom. The participants were continually asked to rate the symptoms of cybersickness experienced on a 10-point scale. In addition to this, the researchers even measured the length of the games held for each session.

The research followed on till the final visit to the lab where participants participated under similar conditions, however with a VR puzzle game being narrative-driven, Shadow Point. Short sessions having lower intensity VR games promises a more efficacious and benign approach. The research team hopes to perform future studies to unravel the results and deeply explore the varied intricacies of the study. They also aim to scrutinize the gender difference with cybersickness, whilst citing their long-time goal of developing a training protocol comprising VR headsets to assist new users to accommodate to virtual settings.

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