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Does iOS 7 make you ill? Give ‘simulator sickness’ the heave

If you feel slightly nauseated while using your iPhone or iPad, you’re not alone: you join a number of people reporting that the zooming, sliding and 3D effects of Apple’s new mobile operating system…

Apple’s newest mobile operating system may play havoc with your vestibular system. ohhector

If you feel slightly nauseated while using your iPhone or iPad, you’re not alone: you join a number of people reporting that the zooming, sliding and 3D effects of Apple’s new mobile operating system - iOS 7 - is a little too dynamic for their liking, giving them motion sickness.

Complaints on various forums include:

I thought I was going crazy today after I updated my phone and I noticed I was feeling queasy every time I used it. Now I see I am not alone! I just used my phone for about 20 minutes and now I feel like I’m going to vomit.

I’m now going on day three of total nausea. At first I didn’t want to believe it’s because of iOS 7, but I can’t stand even looking at non animation areas for more than a few minutes even typing this.

The physical consequence of using iOS 7 is a really good example of how mobile technologies and virtual worlds bring a number of interesting effects to the average user - and unfortunately for us, the repercussions are very real.

Simulator sickness

Simulator sickness is an acute condition of medical distress that happens in exposure to virtual environments. It starts as stomach discomfort, bodily warmth, headache, dizziness and/ or drowsiness, then proceeds to stomach distress, nausea and vomiting.

This is caused by a phenomenon called vection. Vection is the perception of self-motion (while being stationary) induced by a moving visual scene, resulting in a sensory conflict.

A common technique in vection research is the optokinetic drum - a black and white striped cylinder which rotates around a seated, stationary subject.

Optokinetic drum simulator.

Two forms of vection are commonly investigated:

  1. Circular vection: the illusion of rotation
  2. Linear vection: the illusion of travelling in a straight path.

In humans, movement through the environment is inferred by three principal sensory systems:

Wikimedia Commons

  • vision
  • the two components of the vestibular system in the inner ear - the semicircular canal system, which detects rotational movements, and the otolith organ (comprising the saccule and utricle structures) which detects linear acceleration.

It is now widely accepted that motion sickness is caused by conflicting inputs between the visual and vestibular systems, or between the two vestibular systems, and comparison of those inputs with the individual’s expectations derived from previous experience.

Resolving (sensory) conflict

There are a number of factors which may contribute to causing or alleviating simulator sickness:

  • High frequency eye movements: Alternative theories have suggested that motion sickness may arise from eye movements. Higher frequency eye movements (where a subject’s eyes flick back and forth quickly) increase motion sickness in response to an optokinetic drum.

Motion sickness can been reduced with fixation, where subjects focus on a stationary object in front of the moving stripes, preventing eye movements. This is comparable to fixating on the horizon while travelling in a moving car to decrease the effects of carsickness. But there are other researchers stating that vection is controlled mainly by peripheral image motion and is unrelated to eye movements.

Zuhair Ahmad

  • Habituation: Habituation occurs when people are repeatedly exposed to virtual scenes, or over several days or weeks, and report less simulator sickness along those exposures.

Some researchers noticed that many “older” people appeared to suffer from effects of motion sickness while most “younger” people showed few or no effects from their experience. Familiarity with computer games may be an advantage to obtain habituation, especially in younger generations.

Being familiar with 3D simulations, even in non-stereoscopic (single eye) situations, could produce habituation to computer graphics contents, and thus result in less simulation sickness.

  • Motion prediction: There are other experiments which attempted to minimise the effect of simulator sickness in virtual reality by incorporating motion prediction, in which the user is able to tell where the camera will move to next, or stating that visual cues (such as the horizon) are necessary among other factors to suppress simulator sickness.

  • Depth perception: The ability to judge distance accurately is essential to many real-world tasks, including navigation, aiming, and shooting. Studies of direct comparisons of verbal distance estimates in virtual environments and real environments suggest that observers are less accurate in estimating distance in the virtual than in the real world.

W3155Y

  • Disorientation and head tracking: while there are many algorithms and techniques developed for head tracking, such as sensors that allow changes of angle and orientation to be recorded on head-mounted displays, inaccuracy of head tracking might be a major reason for disorientation.

It is important to investigate whether disorientation effects might be alleviated if a person has full freedom of movement, and has his or her hands present, in the virtual world.

Still queasy?

Improvements in mobile technology within the past decade suggest an increased need for more current device comparisons, as well as comparisons between simulator configurations and simulator sickness results.

We should not only investigate the impacts of the hardware, but also the quality and content of software as well - especially the accuracy of head tracking and navigation and processing of content - which may have serious impacts on human perception and cognition.

In the meantime, if the parallax effect of iOS 7 continues to turn your stomach (and you have an iPhone 5) you could always try the “Reduce Motion” option under “Accessibility”.

But if you’ve an iPhone 4S or older, better hope you habituate - or resort to what others have done: downgrade to iOS 6.

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7 Comments sorted by

  1. marioPS

    logged in via Twitter

    C'mon, I thought an "Associate Professor of Computing at Macquarie University" would be familiar with the idea of 'research' ...

    "In the meantime, if the parallax effect of iOS 7 continues to turn your stomach (and you have an iPhone 5) you could always try the “Reduce Motion” option under “Accessibility”.

    But if you’ve an iPhone 4S or older, better hope you habituate – or resort to what others have done: downgrade to iOS 6."

    1) On the iPhone 4S, you also have the option of turning on 'Reduce Motion' (http://ipod.about.com/od/iphonesoftwareterms/f/What-Devices-Are-Ios-7-Compatible.htm)

    2) Older iPhones (including the iPhone 4) do not support the 'parallax effect. (http://arstechnica.com/apple/2013/09/new-lease-on-life-or-death-sentence-ios-7-on-the-iphone-4/)

    3) You cannot downgrade from iOS 7 to iOS 6 (http://www.macworld.com/article/2049091/unhappy-with-ios-7-downgrade-while-you-still-can.html)

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    1. Manolya Kavakli

      Associate Professor of Computing at Macquarie University

      In reply to marioPS

      Dear Mario,
      The first thing that comes to mind as an initial response is generally an emotional one. “Is this a teaser to attract attention or a shield to cover up other important points raised in this article, to distract public’s attention?” My initial response was this, after reading your comment. Thinking about it, I have come up with a more constructive view as follows:
      First of all, I would like to thank you for your interest in the article. It creates a good debate and gives me an opportunity…

      Read more
    2. Mark Schneider

      Freelance coypwriter

      In reply to marioPS

      I've been all over my iphone 4S and have yet to find a way of turning on Reduce Motion. I've concluded that it can't be done on a 4S. It certainly isn't in the settings.

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    3. marioPS

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Mark Schneider

      http://www.macworld.com/article/2049249/make-ios-7-less-nausea-inducing.html

      " If the dynamic wallpaper movement on iOS 7 has you feeling seasick, don’t panic: There’s no need to throw your iPhone overboard. You can disable this animation and iOS 7’s other more drastic shifts by going to Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion.

      After you flick this switch, your home screen wallpaper should once again be as still as it was in iOS 6. "

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    4. marioPS

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Manolya Kavakli

      You got me.

      “Is this a teaser to attract attention or a shield to cover up other important points raised in this article, to distract public’s attention?”

      I'm needy and want recognition.

      Seriously, I have no issue with the majority of the article. I was just disappointed in the technical inaccuracies at the tail end.

      Regards,

      Mike

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    5. marioPS

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Manolya Kavakli

      Dearest Manolya,

      Just curious:

      1) How is an "Associate Professor of Computing" not in the industry of technology?
      2) How was my response emotional? I was pointing out factual errors, and providing evidence ...

      I maintain my response to your general article on motion sickness - with iPhone references tacked on the end and in the subject as a form of clickbait - was more objective than your defence of my criticism ...

      Enjoy!

      Mario

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