Cybersickness in Virtual Reality

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What is Cybersickness in Virtual Reality?

Cybersickness in virtual reality refers to motion sickness-like symptoms—such as nausea, dizziness, headaches, eye strain, vertigo and disorientation—that affect people when they interact with virtual environments.

Cybersickness occurs when there's a disconnect between what the eyes see and what the body feels, especially in terms of motion. For example, a user in a virtual reality (VR) environment might perceive movement (like flying or fast-paced action), but their body doesn't experience the corresponding physical motion. This sensory mismatch can confuse the brain and lead to symptoms of cybersickness.

Causes of Cybersickness

Cybersickness in VR (also known as VR sickness) shares many symptoms with motion sickness but differs in terms of causes. With motion sickness, one feels ill because they feel movement in the muscles and inner ear but don't see it. In the case of cybersickness, it's the opposite. People see movement on the screen but don’t feel it.

Free-roaming exploration games such as Subnautica (pictured above) or Skyrim VR, which involve extensive free-roaming exploration, can sometimes cause discomfort due to their vast, open-world design.

© Unknown Worlds Entertainment, Inc. (via PlayStation), Fair Use

Here are the main factors that cause and exacerbate cybersickness:

  1. Prolonged Exposure to Digital Screens: Spending extended periods looking at screens, whether computer monitors, smartphones, or VR headsets, can strain the eyes and disrupt the usual perception of space and motion, leading to cybersickness symptoms.

  2. Rapid Movement in the Visual Field: Fast-paced or unpredictable movements within immersive media or the virtual environment can exacerbate the sensory conflict, particularly in VR settings where the user's viewpoint can change rapidly, which causes disorientation and discomfort.

  3. Lack of Control Over the Environment: Users with little control over their movement or actions in a digital environment are more susceptible to VR sickness. This lack of control can enhance the feeling of disorientation and imbalance.

  4. Frame Rate and Quality of Graphics: Lower frame rates and poor-quality graphics can cause a lag between the user's actions and the visual feedback they receive. This lag can contribute to the sensory mismatch, leading to cybersickness symptoms.

  5. Individual Differences: Factors such as age, gender, and personal susceptibility to motion sickness can affect one's likelihood of experiencing cybersickness. Some people might be more prone to it due to their inherent sensitivity to motion and balance disruptions.

  6. Pre-existing Conditions: People with certain medical conditions, such as vestibular disorders, migraines, or even anxiety, may be more susceptible to cybersickness due to their heightened sensitivity to sensory disturbances.

People who suffer from VR sickness can manage their symptoms by adopting one or more of the following practices:

  • Take breaks from the screen.

  • Use blue light glasses.

  • Avoid certain types of visual content that can trigger symptoms. 

  • Properly adjust screen brightness and resolution to reduce eye strain.

  • Minimize exposure to flashy displays and illustrations.

  • Maintain a good posture and ensure proper ventilation in the workspace.

While users may take measures to manage the condition, VR experience providers can address some of the issues through the hardware. A good quality VR headset has a high resolution, low latency and high refresh rate, all contributing to a smooth visual experience.

Role of UX Design to Help Prevent Cybersickness

Besides the hardware, VR UX designers can help prevent or mitigate the problem by designing environments that minimize sudden movements:

  1. Stationary Reference Point: The key to managing digital motion sickness is to allow the brain to realize that the body is not moving. People who feel nauseous can get relief if they stare at a fixed point for a short time. Provide these stationary reference points, say, an object or a wall that users can stare at to signal to their brain that they are stationary.

  2. Movement and Locomotion: Movements should be smooth and natural to reduce the chance of motion sickness. The VR experience should avoid sudden accelerations, rotations, or abrupt stops. Give users options for different locomotion styles, such as teleportation or gradual acceleration, to accommodate their preferences.

    Many apps include settings that allow users to choose how to navigate. Here is an example from Cyan’s Myst game, with the navigation set to “Teleportation.”

    © Cyan, Fair Use

  3. User Comfort Settings: Provide adjustable settings for comfort-related factors, such as the option to turn off certain effects, adjust movement speed, or enable a stationary mode.

  4. Frame Rate and Performance: Maintain a high and consistent frame rate (e.g., 90 Hz) to prevent motion sickness and nausea. Optimize graphics and animations to ensure smooth performance.

  5. Field of View (FOV): Optimize the field of view to match human peripheral vision. Avoid tunnel vision effects or extreme FOV that could strain your users' eyes or cause discomfort.

  6. Interactions and Controls: Design intuitive and ergonomic interactions. Ensure that controls and gestures are easy to understand and execute. Minimize the need for complex or rapid hand movements.

  7. User Interface (UI): Create UI elements that are easy to read and interact with. Avoid clutter and excessive 3D UI elements that may strain users' eyes or distract them from the experience.

    Microsoft’s Xbox game store allows users to filter games based on accessibility features. In this case, the chosen filter is “Steady Camera.” According to the Xbox guidelines, these games avoid “the use of shaking camera or “bobbing” movements, which may cause motion discomfort for some individuals, or there are options to turn off such movement.”

    © Microsoft, Fair Use

  8. Visual Comfort: Use comfortable and balanced color palettes. Minimize flickering, glare, or overly bright visuals that can cause eye strain or discomfort. Maintain realistic depth perception and scale to prevent visual distortions leading to discomfort or dizziness.

  9. Audio Design: Implement spatial audio cues that accurately reflect the virtual environment. The audio should enhance the sense of immersion and presence without overwhelming or disorienting your users.

  10. Content Length: Extended VR pieces or longer sessions can lead to fatigue, so offer users breaks or design experiences they can enjoy in shorter intervals.

Designers can incorporate these principles into the design of digital products to reduce the risk of cybersickness.

Learn More about Cybersickness in Virtual Reality

To learn more about designing pleasing and safe VR experiences, enroll in the IxDF course, UX Design for Virtual Reality.

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See Lisa Rebenitsch and Charles B Owen Rebenitsch’s research paper, Review on cybersickness in applications and visual displays.

Latency and Cybersickness: Impact, Causes, and Measures. A Review by Jan-Philipp Stauffert, Florian Niebling and Marc Erich Latoschik explores the impact of latency on VR sickness.

In Accessibility Options in Virtual Reality Gaming: A Case Study with Myst, accessibility consultant Meryl Evans details the impact of different settings in VR games.

Microsoft provides a detailed list of Accessibility features on Xbox games.

Questions about Cybersickness In Virtual Reality

How does cybersickness differ from traditional motion sickness?

Cybersickness and motion sickness share symptoms like nausea and dizziness, but their causes differ. Traditional motion sickness arises from a mismatch between what your eyes see and your body feels in real-world situations, like reading in a moving car. Your eyes don't perceive the motion, but your body does, leading to sickness.

In contrast, cybersickness occurs in virtual environments like VR. The issue is the opposite: your eyes perceive motion, but your body doesn't feel it. 

In immersive VR experiences, the brain believes in the virtual movement while the body remains still, intensifying sensory conflict.

Learn how to design comfortable and safe VR experiences in the course UX Design for Virtual Reality.

Why is understanding cybersickness important for UX/UI designers?

Understanding cybersickness is vital for UX/UI designers because it directly impacts user experience, especially in virtual and augmented reality environments. VR sickness can lead to discomfort, nausea, and disorientation, which detracts from the user's engagement and satisfaction with the product. As designers aim to create immersive and interactive experiences, neglecting the factors contributing to cybersickness can result in negative user feedback and decreased usage.

By understanding the causes and effects of VR sickness, UX/UI designers can implement strategies to minimize its impact. Designers can optimize motion design, ensure visual stability and provide clear navigation cues. Designers can also incorporate user controls to adjust the intensity of the experience, catering to individual sensitivities.

Acknowledging cybersickness in design helps in creating inclusive and accessible products. It's essential to cater to a wide range of users, including those more prone to motion sickness. By addressing these issues, designers ensure a broader audience can comfortably use their products.

For a deeper dive into how UX/UI design impacts user experience and how to address challenges like cybersickness, enroll in the IxDF course, UX Design for Virtual Reality.

How can cybersickness impact the user experience in virtual environments?

Cybersickness can significantly impact the user experience in virtual environments. Users who experience symptoms like nausea, dizziness, or disorientation will likely have a negative perception of the virtual environment. This discomfort can discourage users from engaging with the virtual experience, making them dissatisfied and potentially abandoning the product.

For UX/UI designers, understanding the implications of VR sickness is essential. They must design virtual environments that minimize the risk of sickness. Designers must carefully consider motion dynamics, visual cues, and user control within the environment. Designers must create immersive yet comfortable experiences, balancing virtual reality's excitement with the user's physical comfort.

Addressing cybersickness in design can improve accessibility. Some users are more susceptible to motion sickness, and designing with these users in mind ensures that the virtual environment is inclusive. By mitigating the factors contributing to sickness, designers can enhance the overall user experience, making it more enjoyable and accessible to a broader audience.

Learn about designing user-friendly virtual environments to enhance user experience in IxDF’s UX Design for Virtual Reality course.

Are there specific design elements that trigger cybersickness?

Yes, certain design elements in virtual environments can trigger discomfort. These include:

  1. Rapid or Erratic Motion: Fast-moving or unpredictable visual elements can cause disorientation and nausea, especially in first-person perspectives, where the user's viewpoint moves quickly through the environment.

  2. Field of View (FOV) Mismatches: A narrow or mismatched field of view in VR can create a tunnel vision effect, leading to discomfort. Ensuring that the FOV in VR matches natural human vision as closely as possible helps reduce cybersickness.

  3. Lack of Motion Parallax: In real life, objects closer to us move faster than those farther away. If this effect is absent or poorly implemented in VR, it can cause disorientation and contribute to VR sickness.

  4. Latency and Frame Rate Issues: Delays between a user's actions and the VR response (latency), or low frame rates, can disrupt the smoothness of the experience, leading to a disconnect between visual and vestibular systems.

  5. Inconsistent Navigation Mechanics: Unpredictable or non-intuitive navigation controls can confuse users, increasing the likelihood of cybersickness.

To create more comfortable virtual experiences, designers should minimize these triggers. They should focus on stable and predictable motion, optimize the field of view settings, ensure motion parallax accuracy, maintain high frame rates with low latency, and design intuitive navigation controls.

For a deeper understanding of designing virtual environments with user comfort in mind, take the UX Design for Virtual Reality course by the Interaction Design Foundation.

How does the screen refresh rate affect cybersickness?

Screen refresh rate plays a significant role in influencing cybersickness in virtual environments. The refresh rate of a screen refers to how often it updates with new images per second, measured in Hertz (Hz). Here's how it affects cybersickness:

  1. Lower Refresh Rates and Latency: Lower refresh rates can cause motion blur and latency (delay) between a user's actions and the visual feedback. This discrepancy can lead to a disconnection between what users see and what they feel, increasing the risk of cybersickness. When the brain receives conflicting signals from the visual and vestibular systems, it can result in symptoms like nausea and dizziness.

  2. Higher Refresh Rates for Smoother Experience: Higher refresh rates provide smoother transitions and movements on the screen. They reduce motion blur and latency, making the virtual experience more closely mimic real-world motion. This synchronization between visual input and physical motion perception helps in reducing the likelihood of cybersickness.

  3. Consistency is Key: Consistency in refresh rate is also crucial. Fluctuations in refresh rates can disrupt the user's sense of immersion and lead to discomfort. A stable and high refresh rate contributes to a more comfortable and realistic virtual experience.

Learn more about the technical specifications of VR headsets.

Does user interface complexity contribute to cybersickness?

User interface complexity can contribute to cybersickness, particularly in virtual environments. A complex or poorly designed user interface (UI) can exacerbate the factors leading to symptoms. Here's how:

  1. Cognitive Overload: Complex UIs can overwhelm users, leading to cognitive overload. When users have to process too much information or navigate complicated interfaces, it can increase mental strain, which may compound the effects of cybersickness.

  2. Navigation Challenges: Complex navigation in a UI can cause disorientation. If users struggle to understand how to move or interact within the virtual environment, this confusion can enhance the disconnect between visual and vestibular inputs, leading to discomfort.

  3. Inconsistent Visual Elements: A UI with inconsistent or rapidly changing visual elements can disrupt the user’s sense of stability in the environment. This inconsistency can be disorienting and contribute to the sensory conflict that causes cybersickness.

Designers can mitigate these issues by creating clean, intuitive, and consistent user interfaces. Simplicity in design helps users navigate virtual environments more comfortably, reducing cognitive load and the likelihood of disorientation.

For a comprehensive understanding of designing user-friendly interfaces in virtual environments, consider signing up for the UX Design for Virtual Reality course.

Can color schemes and visual design choices cause cybersickness?

Yes, color schemes and visual design choices influence the occurrence of VR sickness in virtual environments. Here's how these elements play a role:

  1. High Contrast and Bright Colors: High contrast color schemes and overly bright colors can be visually overwhelming, leading to eye strain. These elements can be particularly jarring in immersive environments like VR.

  2. Rapid Color Changes: Frequent or abrupt changes in color schemes can disorient users, disrupting the brain's ability to process visual information.

  3. Complex Patterns: Complex or high-density patterns can create visual confusion. Users might find it difficult to focus and thus feel uncomfortable. Designers can minimize this risk by simplifying patterns and reducing visual complexity.

  4. Background and Foreground Colors: The choice of background and foreground colors can impact depth perception and focus. Poorly chosen combinations can lead to a lack of visual stability, which is crucial in preventing cybersickness.

In summary, thoughtful color schemes and visual design choices are essential in reducing VR sickness. Designers should aim for harmonious, balanced, and stable visual elements that are comfortable to view over extended periods, especially in virtual environments.

Learn how to work with color in our course, Visual Design: The Ultimate Guide

What design strategies can prevent cybersickness?

To prevent cybersickness, designers can adopt several strategies, particularly when creating virtual environments. These strategies minimize the sensory conflict between what users see and their bodies feel. Here are key design strategies:

  1. Stable Reference Points: Include stable reference points in the virtual environment. These could be fixed objects or horizon lines that provide a sense of orientation and stability.

  2. Minimize Rapid Movements: Avoid rapid or extreme movements within the virtual environment. Smooth, gradual movements are less likely to cause disorientation and nausea.

  3. Consistent Field of View (FOV): Design a field of view that mimics natural human vision. Avoid FOVs that are too narrow or too wide, as they can create a tunnel vision effect or overwhelm the user with too much visual information.

  4. Optimize Motion Parallax: Ensure closer objects move faster than distant ones, mirroring real-world perception and aiding in-depth understanding.

  5. Reduce Latency and Maintain High Frame Rates: Low latency and high frame rates ensure smoother transitions and movements, reducing the risk of cybersickness.

  6. Simplify User Interface: A clean, intuitive UI helps in reducing cognitive load and navigation challenges, thereby decreasing the potential for disorientation.

  7. Customization Options: Provide users with options to customize their experience, such as adjusting motion intensity or FOV, to cater to individual comfort levels.

  8. Gradual Exposure: Gradually introduce users to more intense aspects of the virtual environment, allowing them to acclimate and reduce the shock to their sensory systems.

For more on designing safe and immersive VR experiences, take the course UX Design for Virtual Reality.

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How can motion design be optimized to reduce cybersickness?

Optimizing motion design is vital to reducing cybersickness, especially in virtual environments. Here are effective strategies:

  1. Smooth and Gradual Movements: Design motions to be smooth and gradual rather than abrupt or rapid to minimize the nausea often associated with sudden movements.

  2. Consistent Motion Speed: Keep the speed of motion consistent. Avoid sudden accelerations or decelerations, which can disrupt the user's sense of equilibrium.

  3. Natural Motion Patterns: Mimic natural motion patterns as closely as possible. Ensure that the motion in the virtual environment corresponds to how things move in the real world, adhering to the laws of physics.

  4. Minimize Conflicting Visual Cues: Avoid visual elements that move in ways contradictory to the user's physical motion to reduce sensory conflicts between what the user sees and feels.

  5. Predictable Navigation: Ensure navigation is predictable and intuitive. Unpredictable or complex navigation can increase the risk of disorientation and discomfort.

  6. Teleportation over Walking Simulation: In VR, using teleportation mechanics instead of simulating walking can reduce motion-related discomfort, as it minimizes visual-vestibular conflict.

  7. Field of View (FOV) Adjustments: Allow users to adjust the FOV to reduce the feeling of motion sickness.

  8. Motion Parallax: Implement motion parallax correctly, where objects closer to the user appear to move faster than those farther away. Motion parallax reinforces depth perception and spatial orientation.

Learn how to design VR experiences in Design for Virtual Reality.

What role does user testing play in identifying cybersickness issues?

User testing is crucial to identify and address cybersickness issues in virtual environments. This process involves gathering feedback from actual users to understand how they interact with and respond to the VR experience. Here's the role user testing plays:

  1. Identifying Triggers: User testing helps identify specific elements in the VR environment that may trigger the symptoms. Different users may react differently, providing a broad perspective on potential issues.

  2. Assessing User Comfort: It allows designers to gauge users' comfort level within the virtual environment. Users can provide direct feedback on aspects like motion, navigation, and visual effects that affect their comfort.

  3. Evaluating Interface Usability: User testing evaluates the effectiveness and intuitiveness of the VR interface. A complex or confusing interface can contribute to cybersickness, and user feedback is essential in optimizing UI design.

  4. Testing for Different User Groups: It helps understand how different user groups, including those more susceptible to motion sickness, experience the VR environment to ensure the design caters to a diverse audience.

  5. Refining Motion Design: Feedback from user testing can guide adjustments in motion design, like speed, acceleration, and movement patterns, to reduce discomfort.

  6. Iterative Improvement: User testing is typically an iterative process, allowing for continuous refinement of the VR experience based on user feedback. This iterative approach is vital to resolve cybersickness issues effectively.

By incorporating user testing into the design process, VR designers can create more comfortable and accessible virtual environments that minimize the risk of cybersickness.

For more on user testing, take the course Conducting Usability Testing

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Can adaptive design reduce the risk of cybersickness?

Adaptive design refers to creating VR experiences that adjust dynamically to individual user needs and preferences. Frank Spillers, CEO of Experience Dynamics, explains what adaptive design is in this video:

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Adaptive design can significantly reduce the risk of VR sickness in virtual environments. Here's how it helps in mitigating the symptoms:

  1. Personalization of User Experience: Adaptive design can tailor the VR experience to individual user preferences and sensitivities. For instance, users prone to motion sickness can opt for a reduced motion setting.

  2. Adjustable Field of View (FOV): Allowing users to adjust the FOV can help reduce discomfort. A wider FOV might be immersive for some, while others might find a narrower FOV less disorienting.

  3. Customizable Motion Settings: Enabling users to control the speed and intensity of motion in the VR environment can significantly reduce the risk of cybersickness. Users can find a comfortable balance that suits their level of sensitivity.

  4. Dynamic Visual Adjustments: Adaptive design can also include automatic adjustments to brightness, contrast, and color settings based on user interaction and feedback, minimizing visual strain.

  5. Responsive Interface Design: An interface that adapts to user actions and preferences can reduce cognitive load and improve navigational ease, contributing to a more comfortable VR experience.

By employing adaptive design principles, VR designers can create more inclusive and accessible virtual environments that cater to a broader range of user needs, effectively reducing the incidence of sickness.

Learn how to design exciting and immersive experiences in Design for Virtual Reality.

How does cybersickness affect accessibility in design?

Elana Chapman, Accessibility Research Manager at Fable, provides an overview of accessibility in this video.

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Cybersickness can make Virtual Reality (VR) inaccessible by limiting the ability of certain users to engage with VR environments comfortably. This inaccessibility arises due to the discomfort and adverse physical symptoms associated with cybersickness. Here's how it affects VR accessibility:

  1. Exclusion of Sensitive Users: Individuals prone to motion sickness, including those with vestibular disorders, are more likely to experience cybersickness. Thus, VR environments become inaccessible or uncomfortable for them.

  2. Reduced Usability: Cybersickness can impair the usability of VR applications. Users experiencing symptoms like nausea, dizziness, or headaches are less likely to use VR technology, reducing its effectiveness and appeal.

  3. Design Limitations: Designers might tweak the experience to minimize symptoms. As a result, the VR UX could be less immersive or visually complex, limiting the full potential and experience that VR offers.

For more on designing accessible experiences, take the course Accessibility: How to Design for All.

What are inclusive design practices to consider for users prone to cybersickness?

In this video, UX content strategist Katrin Suetterlin explains what inclusive design means.

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Inclusive design practices are crucial to accommodate users prone to cybersickness in virtual environments. Here are the best practices to consider:

  1. Customizable Settings: Provide options for users to customize their VR experience, including adjustable motion intensity, field of view settings, and control sensitivity. This personalization helps cater to different comfort levels.

  2. Gradual Exposure: Design experiences that allow users to gradually acclimate to VR environments, especially those new or sensitive to VR. Start with less intense experiences and progressively introduce more dynamic elements.

  3. Stable Reference Points: Include stable reference points in the VR environment, like a constant horizon line or fixed objects, to help users orient themselves and reduce disorientation.

  4. Clear and Intuitive Navigation: Ensure navigation is intuitive and easy to understand. Complex or confusing navigation can exacerbate cybersickness.

  5. Minimize Rapid Movements: Avoid sudden, rapid, or complex movements within the VR experience. Smooth and predictable motions are less likely to cause discomfort.

  6. Consistent Frame Rate and Low Latency: Maintain a high and constant frame rate and ensure low latency to provide a smooth and responsive experience.

  7. Comfortable Visual Design: Use harmonious color schemes and avoid visually overwhelming patterns or rapid changes in brightness or color.

  8. Regular Breaks: Encourage frequent breaks during prolonged VR sessions to reduce the intensity of exposure and allow users to recover.

  9. User Testing with Diverse Groups: Conduct user testing with diverse groups, including those prone to motion sickness, to gather feedback and make necessary adjustments.

  10. Accessible Alternatives: Provide alternative ways to access the content for those who cannot comfortably use VR to create an inclusive experience.

Here are some additional resources on Inclusive Design and Accessibility.

Are there emerging technologies that might increase/decrease cybersickness?

Emerging technologies have the potential to both increase and decrease cybersickness in virtual environments. Here's how they play a role:

  1. Increase in cybersickness:

    • Higher Immersion Technologies: As VR/AR technologies become more immersive, they can intensify the sensory conflict that leads to VR sickness. Technologies that enhance realism, like haptic feedback or 360-degree motion, might increase the discrepancy between visual and physical sensations.

    • Extended Reality (XR): XR environments that blend real and virtual worlds could create complex sensory inputs, potentially heightening the risk of cybersickness for some users.

  2. Decrease in cybersickness:

    • Advanced Motion Tracking: Improved motion tracking technologies can reduce latency and provide smoother, more natural interactions. This alignment between user movements and VR responses can decrease the likelihood of VR sickness.

    • Adaptive VR Environments: AI-driven adaptive VR environments that adjust in real-time to user reactions and comfort levels can help minimize symptoms. These systems can modify the experience based on individual user responses.

    • Better Display Technologies: Advances in display technologies, like higher refresh rates and resolution, contribute to a more stable and comfortable visual experience, reducing visual triggers of VR sickness.

  3. Neuroadaptive Technologies: These technologies use real-time brain activity monitoring to adjust VR environments. By detecting signs of discomfort or disorientation, the system can dynamically modify the experience to reduce cybersickness.

  4. Biometric Feedback: Incorporating biometric feedback (like heart rate or skin conductance) to adapt the VR experience in real-time can help tailor the experience to individual comfort levels, potentially reducing cybersickness.

As these technologies continue to evolve, the challenge for designers will be to balance enhanced realism and immersion with user comfort and safety, aiming to minimize cybersickness while maximizing the user experience. See the UX Design for Virtual Reality course for more on VR design.

What future design trends could impact cybersickness?

Future design trends in virtual environments could significantly impact cybersickness positively and negatively. Here are some trends to consider:

  1. Increased Realism: As VR technology advances towards greater realism, the sensory experiences will intensify. While this can enhance immersion, it could also increase the risk of VR sickness due to stronger sensory conflicts.

  2. Mixed Reality Experiences: Integrating virtual and real-world elements in mixed reality (MR) could challenge users' perceptual systems more than current VR experiences, potentially increasing the risk of cybersickness.

  3. Adaptive and Responsive Environments: Future VR environments may become more adaptive, using AI to respond to user actions and preferences in real time. Such environments could reduce cybersickness by automatically adjusting settings to suit individual comfort levels.

  4. Biometric Feedback Integration: Incorporating biometric feedback to customize experiences in real-time (based on user heart rate, eye movement, etc.) could help dynamically adjust VR environments to minimize cybersickness.

  5. Haptic Feedback Enhancements: As haptic feedback becomes more sophisticated, it could either help in aligning physical sensations with visual inputs, reducing cybersickness, or it could create more complex sensory inputs, potentially increasing it.

  6. Improved Display Technology: Advances in display technology, such as higher refresh rates and resolutions, may continue to reduce visual triggers of cybersickness by providing smoother and more stable visual experiences.

  7. Neuroergonomic Design: This involves designing based on an understanding of the functioning of the human brain and body. As our knowledge of neuroergonomics improves, Designers can craft VR experiences to align more closely with human sensory processing, potentially reducing sickness.

  8. Voice and Gesture Controls: Moving away from traditional controllers to more natural interaction methods like voice and gesture controls can reduce the reliance on complex navigation interfaces, potentially decreasing the risk of VR sickness.

  9. Personalization and Customization: Future VR environments might offer more profound levels of personalization, allowing users to modify their experiences extensively to suit their preferences and reduce discomfort.

These emerging trends highlight the evolving nature of VR design and its implications for cybersickness. Knowing the fundamentals of VR design is crucial for designers to balance innovation with user comfort and safety. Find out how to stay ahead of the competition in UX Design for Virtual Reality.

What are some industry-standard tools or software to test for cybersickness?

Industry-standard tools and software for testing cybersickness focus on user experience research, physiological monitoring, and performance tracking in virtual environments. Here are some essential tools and software used in the industry:

  1. Simulator Sickness Questionnaire (SSQ): Product teams use this tool to measure cybersickness symptoms. The SSQ allows users to report their symptoms after VR exposure, covering aspects like nausea, disorientation, and oculomotor discomfort.

  2. User Experience Questionnaires: Customized questionnaires focused on user experience in VR can help gather detailed feedback on specific aspects that might contribute to cybersickness.

  3. Biometric Monitoring Tools: Devices that measure physiological responses, such as heart rate, skin conductance, and eye tracking, can provide objective data on how users physically react to VR experiences.

  4. VR Analytics Software: Software that analyzes user behavior and interactions within VR can help identify patterns or elements that correlate with increased reports of discomfort or cybersickness.

  5. Motion Capture Systems: These systems can track user movements and postures in VR, helping to understand how physical interaction with VR affects user comfort.

  6. Head-Mounted Display (HMD) Integrated Software: Many HMDs come with integrated software that can track usage patterns, head movements, and other metrics relevant to assessing the risk of cybersickness.

  7. A/B Testing Platforms: These platforms allow for comparative testing between different VR scenarios or settings to determine which configurations are more likely to cause discomfort.

  8. Real-time Feedback Tools: Systems that enable real-time feedback during VR exposure can provide immediate insights into user comfort and potential triggers of cybersickness.

While these tools and software can provide valuable insights, designers must combine them with direct user feedback and iterative design processes to minimize sickness in VR environments. Find out how to design great VR experiences in UX Design for Virtual Reality.

Are there case studies on cybersickness related to specific design choices?

Here are some research papers that examine the impact of design decisions on cybersickness:

  1. Kursula, J. (. (2019). The Association between Perceived Cybersickness and the Amount of Visual Detail in Virtual Environments.
    In this paper, the author compares two VR scenes that differ in visual detail to investigate if the level of visual detail impacts perceived cybersickness.

  2. Bailey, G.S., Arruda, D.G., and Stoffregen, T.A. (2022). Using quantitative data on postural activity to develop methods to predict and prevent cybersickness.
    This paper examines different design interventions to overcome cybersickness among head-mounted display (HMD) users.

  3. Palmisano, S., Allison, R.S., and Kim, J. (2020). Cybersickness in Head-Mounted Displays Is Caused by Differences in the User's Virtual and Physical Head Pose.
    This paper reviews the limitations of existing theories in explaining cybersickness and proposes a practical alternative approach. It begins with a clear operational definition of cybersickness while using VR headsets. 

  4. Stanney, K., Lawson, B.D., Rokers, B., Dennison, M., Fidopiastis, C., Stoffregen, T., Weech, S., and Fulvio, J.M. (2020). Identifying Causes of and Solutions for Cybersickness in Immersive Technology: Reformulation of a Research and Development Agenda, International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 36:19, 1783-1803
    This article evaluates the state of research on this problem, identifies challenges to address, and formulates an updated cybersickness research and development (R&D) agenda. It recommends prioritizing the creation of powerful, lightweight, and untethered head-worn displays, reduction of visual latencies, standardization of symptom and aftereffect measurement, development of improved countermeasures, and improved understanding of the magnitude of the problem and its implications for job performance.

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Literature on Cybersickness in Virtual Reality

Here’s the entire UX literature on Cybersickness in Virtual Reality by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Cybersickness in Virtual Reality

Take a deep dive into Cybersickness in Virtual Reality with our course UX Design for Virtual Reality .

Virtual reality is a multidimensional universe that invites you to bring stories to life, transform digital interactions, educate with impact and create user-centric and unforgettable experiences. This course equips you with the skills and knowledge to embrace the possibilities and navigate the challenges of virtual reality.

UX Design for Virtual Reality is taught by UX expert Frank Spillers, CEO and founder of the renowned UX consultancy Experience Dynamics. Frank is an expert in the field of VR and AR, and has 22 years of UX experience with Fortune 500 clients including Nike, Intel, Microsoft, HP, and Capital One.

In UX Design for Virtual Reality, you’ll learn how to create your own successful VR experience through UX design. Informed by technological developments, UX design principles and VR best practices, explore the entire VR design process, from concept to implementation. Apply your newfound skills and knowledge immediately though practical and enjoyable exercises.  

In lesson 1, you’ll immerse yourself in the origins and future potential of VR and you’ll learn how the core principles of UX design apply to VR. 

In lesson 2, you’ll learn about user research methods, custom-tailored for the intricacies of VR.

In lesson 3, you’ll investigate immersion and presence and explore narrative, motion and sounds as design tools. 

In lesson 4, you’ll delve into interface and interaction design to create your own user-friendly, compelling and comfortable VR experiences.

In lesson 5, you’ll gain insights into prototyping, testing, implementing VR experiences, and conducting thorough evaluations.

After each lesson you’ll have the chance to put what you’ve learned into practice with a practical portfolio exercise. Once you’ve completed the course, you’ll have a case study to add to your UX portfolio. This case study will be pivotal in your transition from 2D designer to 3D designer. 

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