Friday, 05 February 2021 15:17

Take care after VR exercise: UniSA researchers


Researchers at the University of South Australia (UniSA) warn that the side-effects of virtual reality exercise can last for around an hour.

Ancret Szpak, Stefan Carlo Michalski and Tobias Loetscher tested the effect of popular VR exergame Beat Saber on players, and found one in seven players still reported VR sickness (similar to motion sickness) 40 mins after they had finished playing.

The study  tested the effect of VR exergaming on vision, nausea, and reaction times. While Beat Saber was mostly well-tolerated some people had longer-lasting side-effects.

While the study "found no strong evidence for adverse symptoms of concern 40 min after VR exposure, irrespective of whether people played Beat Saber for 10 or 50 min", the team warned that the subjects were young and healthy, with a below-average history of motion sickness. Other groups could be more affected.

Yet 14% of participants reported high levels of 'simulator sickness' 40 minutes after playing Beat Saber for 50 minutes.

Changes were detected in subjects' visual accommodation and convergence, but they returned to normal within 40 minutes. The results of cognitive testing (eg, decision speed) "revealed no concern."

Lead researcher Ancret Szpak said VR offers promising benefits to exergaming, there is a lot still to be learned about VR technology.

"There's no doubt that VR provides unparalleled benefits to a range of applications, but it's important to be wary of how new technologies can affect you, both during and after play.

"VR is particularly promising for exergaming as it keeps players absorbed in the virtual world while distracting them from feelings of physical effort of exercise. In this way, people who are not particularly excited about exercise, can still get their game on and get moving.

Szpak recommends people try a brief VR session to make sure they can tolerate it: "if you feel a bit dizzy after a short time, you're likely to feel worse after a longer exposure.

"Secondly, after playing any VR – exergaming or otherwise – it's always wise to wait and see how you feel before you take on any higher-risk activity, such as driving a car."

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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