What is Cybersickness | Does the light of the computer screen sting, dizziness comes from looking at the phone? These can be symptoms of cybersickness, What is Cybersickness?
Dizziness comes from looking at the phone? Symptoms can be of this disease (Credit: iStock)  |  Photo Credits: Representative Image
AIIMS (US) : Do you ever feel like the light on your computer screen is piercing your eyes and ringing in your head? Or do you feel dizzy or nauseous after looking at your phone? So you would think that all this is happening because of looking at the screen for a long time and it is simply a result of eye strain or fatigue, these are actually symptoms of a condition called cyber disease.
With days spent working from home, distance learning and endless online scrolling these issues can seem like a necessary evil. But I can assure you as a researcher in human-computer interaction specializing in cyber-sickness that you have ways to anticipate and avoid getting screen sick.
What is Cyber Sickness?
Cyber sickness refers to a group of symptoms that occur in the absence of physical movement, similar to motion sickness. These symptoms fall into three categories: nausea, oculomotor issues, and general disorientation. Oculomotor symptoms such as eye strain, fatigue, and headache include overworking the nerve that controls eye movement. Disorientation may manifest as dizziness.
Many cyber sickness symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating and blurred vision, overlap categories. These problems can persist for hours and affect the quality of sleep. People can experience symptoms of cybersickness through everyday devices such as computers, phones, and televisions. For example, Apple released a parallax effect on the iPhone lock screen in 2013, in which the background image floats or shifts when one moves their phone, which many people find extremely uncomfortable. It was later revealed that, this was because it exacerbated the symptoms of cybersickness.
Parallax scrolling on websites, where a background image remains fixed while foreground content moves as you scroll, can also be a factor in these symptoms. There is no complete consensus among researchers about why people experience cybersickness. One popular view, sensory conflict theory, hypothesizes that this is due to a mismatch of information perceived by the parts of the body that control vision and balance. Your eyes receive information that tells them that you are walking, even when your body is not moving.
Cyber sickness in virtual and augmented reality
The symptoms of cyber sickness are more acute with virtual reality and augmented reality. VR refers to technology that completely blocks your view of the real world and replaces it with an immersive, artificial environment. It is widely available commercially through popular gaming platforms such as Facebook’s Oculus devices and Sony PlayStation VR. VR can result in severe levels of nausea that increase with duration of use. This can make some applications and games unusable for many individuals.
On the other hand, AR paints the real world with a simulated environment. These can include head-mounted devices that show you what’s in front of you or something like Pokémon Go on your phone or tablet. AR leads to more severe oculomotor stress. Even if you haven’t used a VR or AR device before, chances are you will within the next 10 years. The rise in popularity of AR and VR use is likely to lead to an increase in the symptoms of cyber sickness.
Market research firm Research & Markets estimates that more than 60% of those adopting these technologies for work, education and entertainment could reach US$900 billion by 2027.
Symptoms of cyber sickness can be dangerous
Although the symptoms of cybersickness may initially appear mild, they can have lasting effects up to 24 hours after using the device. This may not seem like a big deal at first. But these lethargic symptoms can affect your ability to function which can prove to be dangerous. For example, symptoms such as severe headache, eye strain or dizziness can affect your coordination and attention. If these side effects persist while driving, it can lead to a car accident. It is not clear whether the user, the software company or any other party will be responsible for injuries potentially caused by the use of the device and for symptoms of cybersickness.
Not much is currently known about how chronic cyber-illness affects daily life. Just as the likelihood of motion sickness is different for everyone, some people may be more prone to cyber sickness than others. Evidence suggests that women, who do not play video games as often and those with poor balance, may experience more severe cyber-illness.
Dealing with the Symptoms of Cyber Sickness
If you’re struggling with symptoms of cybersickness because you’ve been using your computer or phone for a long time, there are ways to help relieve the discomfort. Blue light glasses work by blocking those blue light waves emitted by your device’s screen, which can cause eye strain and sleep disturbances. Zooming in on the screen or using a larger font size can also help reduce eye strain and make daily work more sustainable.
using new technology safely
Work from home has increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people have made a habit of working with sweatpants, bedheads and Zoom meetings instead of 9 to 5. While there is no doubt about its convenience, it has also raised awareness of how difficult it can be to stare at a screen for more than 40 hours a week. But don’t let yourself get sick because of cybersickness. As researchers explore ways to reduce and prevent cyber-sickness across devices, there will come a day when people will no longer feel dizzy while enjoying advances in innovative technologies.
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