The virtual reality head-mounted display Oculus Rift induces motion sickness and is sexist in its effects

Exp Brain Res. 2017 Mar;235(3):889-901. doi: 10.1007/s00221-016-4846-7. Epub 2016 Dec 3.


Anecdotal reports suggest that motion sickness may occur among users of contemporary, consumer-oriented head-mounted display systems and that women may be at greater risk. We evaluated the nauseogenic properties of one such system, the Oculus Rift. The head-mounted unit included motion sensors that were sensitive to users' head movements, such that head movements could be used as control inputs to the device. In two experiments, seated participants played one of two virtual reality games for up to 15 min. In Experiment 1, 22% of participants reported motion sickness, and the difference in incidence between men and women was not significant. In Experiment 2, motion sickness was reported by 56% of participants, and incidence among women (77.78%) was significantly greater than among men (33.33%). Before participants were exposed to the head-mounted display system, we recorded their standing body sway during the performance of simple visual tasks. In both experiments, patterns of pre-exposure body sway differed between participants who (later) reported motion sickness and those who did not. In Experiment 2, sex differences in susceptibility to motion sickness were preceded by sex differences in body sway. These postural effects confirm a prediction of the postural instability theory of motion sickness. The results indicate that users of contemporary head-mounted display systems are at significant risk of motion sickness and that in relation to motion sickness these systems may be sexist in their effects.

Keywords: Motion sickness; Posture; Sex differences; Virtual environments.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Head Movements*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Motion Sickness / physiopathology*
  • Postural Balance
  • Posture*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Video Games
  • Young Adult