Communications Project

Document Type:Master's Thesis
Name:Michael K. McGee
Title:Assessing Negative Side Effects in Virtual Environments
Degree:Master of Science
Committee Chair: Dr. Robert C. Williges
Committee Members:Dr. John G. Casali
Dr. Thomas A. Dingus
Keywords:side effects, virtual environments, head-tracking, mental rotation, magnitude estimation
Date of defense:January 26, 1998
Availability:Release the entire work immediately worldwide.


Virtual environment (VE) systems have been touted as exciting new technologies with many varied applications. Today VEs are used in telerobotics, training, simulation, medicine, architecture, and entertainment. The future use of VEs seems limited only by the creativity of its designers. However, as with any developing technology, some difficulties need to be overcome. Certain users of VEs experience negative side effects from being immersed into the graphically rendered virtual worlds. Some side effects that have been observed include: disorientation, headaches, and difficulties with vision. These negative side effects threaten the safety and effectiveness of VE systems.

Negative side effects have been found to develop in a variety of environments. The research focus on VE side effects thus far has been on the symptoms and not the causes. The main goals of this research is fourfold: 1) to compare a new measure for side effects with established ones; 2) begin analyzing the causes of side effects with an analysis of head-tracking; 3) to examine any adaptation that may occur within a session and between days of a session; and, 4) to examine possible predictors for users who may experience side effects.

An experiment was conducted using two different VEs with either head-tracking on or head-tracking off over four days. A questionnaire, a balance test, a vision test, and magnitude estimations of side effects were used to assess the incidence and severity of sickness experienced in the VEs. Other assessments, including a mental rotation test, perceptual style, and a questionnaire on pre-existing susceptibility to motion sickness were administered. All factors were analyzed to determine what their relationships were with the incidence and severity of negative side effects that result from immersion into the VEs.

Results showed that head-tracking induces more negative side effects than no head-tracking. The maze task environment induces more negative side effects than the office task environment. Adaptation did not occur from day to day throughout the four testing sessions. The incidence and severity of negative side effects increased at a constant rate throughout the 30 minute immersive VE sessions, but did not show any significant changes from day to day. No evidence was found for a predictor that would foretell who might be susceptible to motion sickness in VEs.

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