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Cyber-sickness and New Research

By charnsitr

United States of Americia – A recent study from researchers at the University of Maryland, have discovered that between 30-80% of users experience nausea and disorientation from the intensity of virtual reality (VR).

The researchers recorded the brain activity of VR users’ though electroencephalography (EEG) to observe and better understand cybersickness. The research was conducted by Eric Krokos, a Ph.D. expert in computer science, alongside Amitabh Varshney, professor of computer science and dean of UMD’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.

Their study, entitled “Quantifying VR cybersickness using EEG”, was published in the journal Virtual Reality.

The term “cybersickness” branches off “motion sickness”. Instead of physical movement, cybersickness is the perception of movement within a virtual environment which triggers and initiates physical symptoms including nausea and disorientation. Although some theories exist as to why such a phenomenon occurs, the lack of a systematic, quantified way of studying cybersickness has halted developments which would make VR more accessible.

Krokos and Varshney are one of the first to use EEG’s as a means of measuring and quantifying cybersickness for VR users. The two were able to establish a correlation among the record brain activity (which is monitored by sensors on the scalp) and self-reported symptoms of the research participants. Their work has, and will continue, to help cognitive psychologists, game developers, and physicians learn more about cybersickness and the methods to alleviate it.

“Establishing a strong correlation between cybersickness and EEG-measured brain activity is the first step toward interactively characterizing and mitigating cybersickness, and improving the VR experience for all,” says Varshney.

Although EEG headsets have been famously used to measure motion sickness, prior research regarding cybersickness has not. Researchers relied on VR users to recall their symptoms through questionnaires which were filled out once users left the immersive environment.

The UMD researchers have stated that such outdated tactics only showcase qualitative date, making it difficult to accurately access in real time what movements and attributes of the virtual environment have a prominent affect on users.

Without a reliable tool to measure and interactively quantify cybersickness, understanding and mitigating the symptoms remain a challenge.

Participants of the UMD study were fitted with a VR headset and an EEG recording device. Users then experienced a minute-long virtual fly-through of a futuristic spaceport which involved quick drops and gyrating turns designed to evoke a degree of cybersickness.

VR users reported their level of discomfort in real time with a joystick, helping researchers properly identify which segments of the experience intensified users’ cybersickness symptoms.

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