Last week, neurophysiologists and VR researchers at the University of Waterloo started making headlines because of their findings on how to predict which VR users might be more susceptible to cybersickness.
Séamas Weech, Jessy Varghese, and Michael Barnett-Cowan, members of the VR working group at the Games Institute, co-authored a paper entitled "Estimating the sensorimotor components of cybersickness" published in the Journal of Neurophysiology.
Their results caught the attention of many, many news outlets who were picking the story up and claiming that UW researchers are on the cusp of curing cybersickness… What exactly did Weech, Varghese, and Barnett-Cowan publish?
Their paper presents the findings that participant sway patterns during vection stimuli, the sensation of body movement produced by visual motion cues, is a strong predictor for VR motion sickness.
Their study involved conducting tests to measure individual differences in specific neurophysiological traits, and then measuring participants' experiences of VR motion sickness. In the article, Weech says:
We found that the sway in response to vection stimuli had the strongest predictive power for [cybersickness] among all measures collected
Media outlets have been excited about these findings because of the broad implications for VR research. For one, this predictive model means researchers now have a way of predicting motion sickness without inducing nausea in participants.
Weech, Varghese and Barnett-Cowan speculate that the more we understand about this correlation between sensitivity to vection stimuli and cybersickness, the more researchers will be able to develop strategies for overcoming VR motion sickness.
Need more convincing?
Weech, Varghese and Barnett-Cowan measured balance control, vection responses, and vestibular sensitivity - in other words, they measured how well participants maintained balance, how their bodies moved in response to visual stimulation, and how prone they were to dizziness.
In the article they discuss how sway responses aren't the only neurophysiological processes affecting cybersickness. Read the original article to learn more about other potential factors.
Weech, S., Varghese, J. S., & Barnett-Cowan, M. (2018) Journal of Neurophysiology. https://www.physiology.org/doi/abs/10.1152/jn.00477.2018