Contribution by Melis Gökalp, edits by Lucia Tian

Cybersickness is a longstanding issue that prevents the widespread adoption of VR technologies. With prolonged VR exposure, cybersickness might occur and make the VR experience unpleasant. There are steps developers can take to reduce cybersickness and make the VR UX more comfortable.

by Melis Gökalp

What is Cybersickness?

Stanney et al (1997) define cybersickness as the constellation of symptoms of discomfort and malaise produced by VR exposure. It is generally described as a visually induced motion sickness and symptomatically similar to simulator sickness.

Motion sickness may occur when a person is consistently exposed to sensory information that differs from their expectations (Sherman, 2002). Motion sickness and cybersickness manifest the same physical symptoms although cybersickness is distinct from motion sickness in that the user is often but has a compelling sense of self motion through moving visual imagery (LaViola Jr, 2000). Here is a 1-minute explanation of motion sickness and the vestibular system:

Some people are affected more severely by cybersickness than others while using VR for long periods of time. Cybersickness is one of the main factors that causes people to discontinue VR use (Fernandes and Feiner, 2016). Therefore cybersickness is an urgent problem to solve for ensuring the continuity of future VR experiences.

With the great power of making VR applications comes great responsibility to ensure the user has an enjoyable experience!

Table of Contents:

  • Design Guidelines to Prevent Cybersickness

  • Comparing the ergonomics of VR visualization software

  • Cybersickness:

    • What is Cybersickness?

    • Casual Factors

    • Measurement of Cybersickness

    • Methods of measurement

    • Papers with guidelines on how to reduce VR sickness

Causal Factors

Some causes of cybersickness are identified as mismatches between observed and expected sensory signals (Reason and Brand, 1975; Rebenitsch and Owen, 2016), self-motion (McCauley and Sharkey, 1992), visual display characteristics (Moss and Muth, 2011), and gameplay experience (Knight and Arns, 2006; Gamito et al., 2008).

The symptoms of cybersickness can linger for hours or sometimes days, making it dangerous for training professionals (such as pilots not being able to fly aircrafts 12 to 24 hours after using a flight simulator).

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Measurement of Cybersickness

  • Physiological markers (LaViola, 2000)

    • Headache

    • Eye strain

    • Pallor

    • Sweating

    • Dryness of mouth

    • Fullness of stomach

    • Disorientation

    • Vertigo

    • Ataxia

    • Nausea

    • Vomiting

  • Behavioral markers

    • Early termination of VR experience

    • Task incompetence

Methods of Measurement

Simulator Sickness Questionnaire is the most commonly used measure, which is given below. These questionnaires were developed for general purposes of simulation.

Figure 4. A frequency of use in subjective measurements for VR sickness. (Chang et al, 2020)

Among those surveyed, the Virtual Reality Symptom Questionnaire (VRSQ) (Ames, Wolffsohn, & McBrien, 2005) was made specifically for measuring cybersickness.

Survey of Cybersickness of CS Students Using Various Apps

A simple yes or no questionnaire was used after VR software demos to gauge general effects of cybersickness. More info about the demos can be seen by clicking on the respective hyperlinks.

Papers with guidelines on how to reduce VR sickness

  • Carnegie, K. , & Rhee, T. (2015). Reducing visual discomfort with HMDs using dynamic depth of field. IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications , 35(5), 34–41.

  • Kim, Y. Y. , Kim, E. N. , Park, M. J. , Park, K. S. , Ko, H. D. , & Kim, H. T. (2008). The application of biosignal feedback for reducing cybersickness from exposure to a virtual environment. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments , 17(1), 1–16.

  • Rebenitsch, L. (2015). Managing cybersickness in virtual reality. XRDS: Crossroads, The ACM Magazine for Students , 22(1), 46–51.

Bonus video: Here is an alarmist segment that was aired on NBC in 1996 about the dangers of VR exposure and cybersickness: