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Science Nation: Cyber Sickness--Virtual Bummer

3 minutes

(male narrator) There's air sickness and sea sickness, but do you know about cyber sickness? It's similar to motion sickness, and it occurs in virtual reality environments. We've got 3D movies, we've got video games, we've got 3D television. All these things will lead to some symptoms, we predict, to some degree.

(narrator) With help from the National Science Foundation, psychologists Frederick Bonato and Andrea Bubka stay busy making volunteers dizzy, studying cyber sickness. Just in case, we have some motion sickness bags for you.

(girls) Oh, no!

(narrator) In their lab at St. Peter's College in New Jersey, they demonstrated several experiments for us. Watching it is enough to make your head spin, and that's the point.

(Bonato) We carefully control what the person sees, and by doing that we can find out what sorts of stimuli increase sickness or reduce it. We're going to lower this drum around you and it will begin spinning.

(narrator) No one knows why some people are prone to motion sickness. Cyber sickness may occur when the sense of sight doesn't match the sense of balance.

(Bonato) Your brain may be reacting like you've been poisoned. That's what some poisons will do, they'll create these mismatching sensory inputs. Put this on and get you comfortable. Is that all right? Mm-hmm.

(narrator) Their research is yielding interesting findings.

(Bonato) If we put someone in a virtual rotating room in stereo and 3D, they get sick faster than if it's in 2D. Color and spatial complexity leads to more sickness. Could you fill this out for us?

(narrator) Bonato believes this research will help reduce or eliminate cyber sickness from things like 3D movies. And what's learned about cyber sickness might lead to breakthroughs in space sickness.

(Bonato) If we create situations where we manipulate the visual input, and maybe find ways of reducing sickness by changing what the person sees.

(narrator) That's good news, no matter how you spin it. For Science Nation, I'm Miles O' Brien.

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Many viewers enjoy three-dimensional technology, but a few feel the need to look away. A number of neurological and visual conditions can cause someone to experience nausea. It's a type of motion sickness without the motion. Fred Bonato of St. Peter's College in Jersey City has spent years steadily tracking what he calls "cyber sickness.”

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Runtime: 3 minutes

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