Women are more prone to cybersickness, study indicates

Research also shows that people who experience motion sickness from cars or boats are more likely to suffer similar symptoms from virtual reality – even though, for others, sensory discomfort decreases over time.

The research team at Iowa State University selected a group of 150 undergraduate students with no virtual reality experience and had some of them play three sessions of Jurassic World Aftermath – a game based on evading dinosaurs while navigating a way out of an abandoned facility.

On the final of the four sessions in total, held over the week, participants would be asked to play a different game, a narrative-driven virtual reality puzzle Shadow Point. The makers of both games classify them as moderately intense for cybersickness.

Removing additional comfort settings to maximize senses, researchers asked the students to rate their experience every four minutes on a 10-point scale. They also measured how long the participants played during each session, scheduled to last for up to 20 minutes.

Half of the participants could not finish their first session, reporting symptoms similar to other forms of motion sickness, such as nausea, dizziness, headache, eye fatigue, sweating, and a lingering sense of movement. However, by the third session, only a quarter said they were feeling too sick to complete the entire session of the gameplay.

“This, along with the finding that sickness ratings on day three were 20% lower than on day one, shows that people adapt when playing the same game repeatedly,” Jonathan Kelly, a professor of psychology and human-computer interaction who led the research, said in a news release.

It seems to follow a similar pattern already observed among people who experience seasickness, with symptoms easing after several days on a boat. The research team also found that adaptation in one virtual reality experience transfers to another.

When participants who had already played Jurassic World three times sat down to play the second game, Shadow Point, their reported sickness rating was 20% lower compared to a control group that was experiencing virtual reality for the first time.

However, the research indicates that some groups have a harder time adapting to virtual reality than others. Initial results show that cybersickness severity ratings were 50% higher for women than men across all four sessions.

“We also found a correlation where people who reported frequent motion sickness from cars and boats also experienced greater cybersickness from virtual reality,” Kelly said in the university’s press release.

With immersive technology expected to boom in coming years, the researchers hope they can develop a training protocol that would come with the virtual reality headsets to help new users adapt better.

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