VIRART study to uncover the roots of Virtual Reality exposure nausea

Nottingham 25 August 2000An extensive report describing and analysing the Virtual Reality Induced Symptoms and Effects (VRISE) produced by viewing different virtual reality (VR) display formats has been published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a British organisation. The study identified typical uses of VR in the workplace and the type of people who would be expected to use them. A survey of VR applications in the United Kingdom was carried out and case study reports on several applications are presented.


This report, written by members of VIRART, the Virtual Reality Applications Research Team at Nottingham University, is the outcome of a one-year project, funded by the Health and Safety Executive. The study contains a number of key findings resulting from a series of experiments carried out into VRISE. The VIRART researchers discovered that whatever the format, be it Head Mounted Display (HMD), Standard Desktop Monitor, Standard Projection Screen Display or Reality Theatre (RT) display, some users experience nausea symptoms.

Susceptibility to VRISE was found to be determined by a number of factors, including the individual's history of migraine headaches, their self rated motion sickness sensitivity and their attitude to virtual reality. Analysis of 221 participants revealed that 70 percent reported an increase in symptoms following VR exposure. In most cases, these symptoms were rather mild and disappeared within ten minutes of the test's conclusion. However, a group diagnosed as classic migraine sufferers reported more adverse symptoms lasting up to eight hours. The overall drop out rate, that is those who asked to stop viewing within the first 20 minutes, was 7 percent.

For the study, the researchers have applied a previously developed VRISE assessment methodology where the influential factors have been divided into four categories, which are the system's integrated VR tools, the nature of the virtual environment, the task characteristics, and the user features. Thus, it was found that the desktop virtual reality format, the most common form in current usage, gives the mildest VRISE, along with the Standard Projection Screen Display, both resulting in zero drop out. The Head Mounted Display (HMD) was found to cause the most severe symptoms with a drop out rate of 12 percent. The Reality Theatre was in between these two in terms of effect, giving a drop out rate of 3 percent.

The research also looked at the complexity of the VR experience, suggesting that greater visual realism was associated with increased motion sickness symptoms. Participants viewing virtual reality on a projection screen system in a passive viewing environment, clearly reported higher levels of symptoms compared to those who had an active input into their VR experience. The report contains some useful recommendations for minimising the symptoms experienced, for example by informing and training VR participants, and by taking extra care to identify and monitor those individuals, such as migraine sufferers, who may be particularly susceptible.

More detailed information on the research relating to the "Health and Safety Implications of Virtual Reality" project is available at the home page of the VIRART team. Copies of the study Incidence of Virtual Reality Induced Symptoms and Effects, series number CRR 274, ISBN 0717618102, price GBP 20.00, can be ordered on-line at the Health and Safety Executive Web site.

Leslie Versweyveld

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