08. Virtual reality and risk of cybersickness: what to do?

Ethical question of concern: endangering participants

Immersion in virtual reality can trigger undesirable effects that are well documented in the literature and are referred to as cybersickness. The symptoms are similar to those of motion sickness (kinetosis); those who suffer from motion sickness are more likely to suffer from cybersickness. For this reason, the CUREG recommends that exclusion criteria for those who suffer from kinetosis (self-reported sensitivity to motion sickness) be applied in virtual reality research.

Symptoms of motion sickness are rarely severe and are of short duration. For example, vomiting is rare (less than 15 per 1000).

The symptoms observed systematically in a portion of the population (estimated at 20% in the first 30 minutes) are, in decreasing order of intensity: 1) disorientation (dizziness, imbalance); 2) eye problems (eye fatigue, blurred vision, headaches), 3) nausea (heartache, dizziness).

These risks are reduced in situations where protective factors are present:

– include a negligible delay in the synchronization of the head movements and the movements of the virtual scene (it is recommended to use the most advanced equipment possible, including computers and graphic cards).

– include few rapid movements in the scene (such as scrolling through a landscape).

– age: the literature on the effect of age is sparse, but most existing studies indicate that cybersickness decreases sharply in adulthood, with some authors even indicating that it is non-existent after age 50 (Mousavi et al, 2013).

Nevertheless, even when taking this into account, it must be estimated that between 0 and 20% of participants are likely to experience cybersickness, which justifies the use of a control and support device.

With respect to monitoring, cybersickness can be detected by observing the person’s behaviour (agitation, non-response, etc.), by self-reports, or by a single-item measurement performed regularly (at the end of the habituation phase and then at regular intervals). The task must be interrupted above a predetermined threshold.

In accordance with the literature, the severity of the cybersickness will be moderate at worst. The person should be immediately removed from the helmet and remain seated for at least 30 minutes (average time for symptoms to disappear reported in the literature), and at least until their self-assessment on the single-item measure has dropped to a very low level. In cases of more severe symptoms, the procedures recommended for first aid will be applied.


Mousavi, M., Jen, Y. H., & Musa, S. N. B. (2013). A review on cybersickness and usability in virtual environments. In Advanced Engineering Forum (Vol. 10, pp. 34-39). Trans Tech Publications Ltd. DOI: 10.4028/