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Emotional storyline can reduce virtual reality cybersickness

Emotional storyline can reduce virtual reality cybersickness
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A storyline with emotionally evocative details may reduce feelings of nausea, disorientation, and eye strain associated with virtual reality (VR) in...

A storyline with emotionally evocative details may reduce feelings of nausea, disorientation, and eye strain associated with virtual reality (VR) in some people, according to a study.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada found that storylines that provide context and details can help users feel immersed in VR experiences, and reduce cybersickness.

"We found that people who had little to no experience playing video games had reduced cybersickness if they received this enhanced narrative, but regular video gamers did not need it because they were not predisposed to feeling symptoms," said Seamas Weech, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Waterloo. "What that tells us is that the actual design of the VR simulation's storyline itself can reduce the negative impact some people experience with VR technology," Weech said.

The study, published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, recruited 42 participants from the university, then 156 at a new media technology exhibition in Ontario, Canada, and had them experience virtual reality. Before entering the simulation, the participants listened to a story about what they were about to experience.

Half of participants were given bare-bones details, and the other half were given an enhanced narrative, which included emotionally evocative details. All participants who heard the enhanced story reported significantly more "presence" in VR - the feeling of being there - but only the non-gamers experienced reduced cybersickness. "People with little gaming experience are highly sensitive to conflicts between VR technology and the information they are taking in," said Michael Barnett-Cowan, a professor at the University of Waterloo.

"Enriched narratives seem to enhance presence and reduce cybersickness due to the decreased focus on problems with the multiple inputs to their senses," Barnett-Cowan said. The researchers saw the benefits of enriched narratives across a sample of people from 8 to 60 years of age. "This brings us closer to an inclusive way to enhance experiences in virtual reality through game design," said Sophie Kenny, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Waterloo.

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