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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1947/4079

Title: Side effects of virtual environments : a review of the literature
Report number: DSTO-TR-1419
AR number: AR-012-747
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Report type: Technical Report
Authors: Barrett, J.
Issue Date: 2004-05
Division: Command and Control Division
Abbreviation: C2D
Release authority: Chief, Command and Control Division
Release limitations: PUBLIC RELEASE
Announce limitations: Public Announce
Task sponsor: DISL
Task number: DST 00/090
File number: N9505/21/155
Pages or format: 60
References: 116
DSTORL/DEFTEST terms: Cybersickness
Motion sickness
Other descriptors: Virtual reality
Simulator sickness
Abstract: Cybersickness symptoms are the unintended psychophysiological side effects of participation in virtual environments. Symptoms can occur both during and after participation, thus having implications for health and safety, user acceptance, and overall system effectiveness. Just as for visually visually induced motion sickness, cybersickness is believed to result from sensory and perceptual mismatches between the visual and vestibular systems, and can be considered as a problem of adaptation to altered environments. Symptoms can be grouped into three dimensions: nausea, disorientation or postural instability, and visual symptoms. Numerous factors relating to the individual participants, the virtual reality system and virtual environment used, and the task carried out, can affect either incidence or severity of cybersickness. Taking account of these factors may avoid or minimise symptoms. This reviews reviews the literature on cybersickness, simulation sickness, and the relevant research on motion sickness, considers measures that have been proposed to manage and treat cybersickness, and identifies areas where more research is needed.
Executive summary: Virtual environment (VE) technology has the potential for innovative applications within defence. The Future Operations Centre Analysis Laboratory (FOCAL) at DSTO Edinburgh is one new facility where these applications can be explored. Yet although VE technology is developing rapidly, its progress may be hampered by the side effects experienced by participants. These side effects, which have been most studied as simulation sickness in flight simulators, include a variety of symptoms ranging from nausea and disorientation to eyestrain or blurred vision. Different VEs may give rise to differing symptoms of differing severity. Symptoms can occur both during and after participation in the VE, and therefore raise concerns for health and safety as well as for the overall effectiveness of the VE application. An understanding of these side effects, their causes, and factors that influence their incidence or severity, may allow symptoms to be avoided or minimised for a given VE. The present report reviews the literature on the side effects of VEs (cybersickness), including simulator sickness, as well as relevant research on motion sickness. Symptoms of cybersickness can be grouped into three dimensions: nausea or stomach discomfort, disorientation or postural instability, and visual symptoms. It is commonly accepted that the symptoms of nausea and instability result from sensory conflicts, in which conflicting position and movement cues are received by visual and vestibular systems. However, more realistic displays may lead to increased rather than decreased symptoms. Additional visual symptoms can occur with some displays, particularly 3D displays. Occurrence of side effects may be influenced by a large number of factors that involve individual differences, system and task variables. The report discusses these factors, as well as measures that could be taken to reduce side effects. Apart from studies of simulator sickness the research literature on VE side effects is still small. Given the wide variability among VEs, considerable research is still needed to understand VE properties that may induce symptoms, and measures that could be taken with either the VE design or preparing individual participants so that symptoms may be avoided or minimised.
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