With the recent release of the PlayStation VR (and Oculus Rift and HTC Vive earlier this year), people are understandably worried about motion sickness that could occur while trying to play the newest video games to utilize the new hardware. Motion sickness (in terms of VR) has to do with the mismatch of visual and movement data your brain is receiving at the same time. Through the VR headset, you see yourself moving throughout a virtual world. So your brain expects to move your legs and arms and feel your body moving. But you’re actually just sitting there playing a video game. Developers are trying to remedy the feeling of sickness by getting has high a frame-rate as possible so the experience is as smooth as possible which should help. But my question is, since video games have gotten enormously popular in the last decade, and millions of people will likely experience virtual reality games in the next few years, are men or women generally more affected by motion sickness when using virtual reality?
This type of motion sickness is actually not a new phenomenon. As early as the 1950’s it was known as “simulator sickness”. According to Live Science, it was in 1957 that the first report of simulator sickness came from a helicopter training simulator. Also, a study done in 1989 reported that up to 40% of military pilots experienced some form of sickness during simulator training.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, a study had been done on the effects of motion sickness on men and women. The sample size is unclear but they looked for volunteers for participants. The first thing they did was a questionnaire that specified sex and whether or not they wanted to volunteer for the study. Then there were two rounds of motion sickness inducing trials. One where the participants were allowed to move their heads and one when they were not. The conclusion of the study found that women were more susceptible to motion sickness.
The null hypothesis would most likely have been “There is no discrepancy of level of motion sickness between men and women” and the alternate hypothesis would most likely have been “There is a difference between men and women in the amount of motion sickness experienced”. Prior to doing the experiment, the researches actually anticipated the main problem with using volunteers. They hypothesized that those volunteering would likely be less susceptible to motion sickness than those not willing to volunteer, and took this into account when forming a final conclusion. We also have no idea how large the sample size was. However, I believe they did set up a nice control group by having one session where the participants did not move their head, and another where they did. Although the potential for a small sample size is there, and there is no randomization going on, I think the researchers did a good observational trial.