Put that phone down

take a break

Put that phone down

It’s the age of smartphones. Accept it: we are a generation that is slave to the master, the smartphone. Our lives run around it, along with it and probably because of it. Most of us are constantly tapping away on our phones,irrespective of the place and time. But did you know constant usage of smartphones can lead to a condition called cybersickness?

Cybersickness is a consequence of contentions between three tactile frameworks: visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive. This happens when the eyes see a development that is out of sync by a couple of milliseconds with what is seen by the vestibular framework, while the rest of the body remains unmoved. It can be brought about by variables identified with the utilisation of virtual reality gear. Researchers have found that computer-generated graphics can cause motion sickness. Even smartphones can cause cybersickness among users, including those who are resistant to motion sickness.

Cybersickness affects 50 to 80 per cent of people, causing them to feel sick after staring at their phones or watching 3D flicks for a long period of time. Symptoms are so subtle that people often shrug it off as stress or eyestrain.

This sickness doesn’t conform to your normal definition of motion sickness. It is in fact a typical physiological reaction to a non-routine or surprising boost. On a tangible level, cybersickness is regular among people obsessed with virtual reality: More than 50 per cent of them experience bleary-eyed spell and 20-60 per cent experience stomach-related side effects.

The effect of cybersickness varies for every individual. No less than 60 per cent of patients in a virtual reality therapy (used to treat addictions, among other conditions) report side effects of cybersickness in the first session itself. Approximately, five per cent of the patients experience no reactions of any sort as an after-effect of being in the virtual reality environment.

Influencing factors

There are three main categories that influence the intensity of cybersickness generated by a virtual environment:

Individual’s characteristics: It usually depends on three factors. First, the physical characteristics like age, gender, ethnic origin and the person’s state of health are considered. For instance, your insomnia might be a result of overuse of digital gadgets.

The second factor to consider is your prior experiences with the virtual world. How many hours you have put in looking at the system, staring at your phone and so on.

And finally, you need to consider the perceptions. It refers to the style, degree of concentration and the ability to effectuate mental rotations. These kind of reactions and their levels of seriousness differ extraordinarily among people of virtual reality frameworks.

Certain people appear to feel only a brief inconvenience towards the start of the experience, although they adjust well later. However, there are others who feel the onset and effect of symptoms slowly through the span of the experience. Likewise, age appears to impact one’s proneness to cybersickness. It is said that the affectability level crests in kids between the ages of two and 12 and has a tendency to decrease quickly
between the ages of 12 and 21 and all the more steadily after the age of 21.

System’s characteristics: It is further divided into two parts — screen and visual stress. Resolutions and contrasts should be adjusted in function of the task required in order to attain an optimal level of performance. The flickering of certain screens has a frequency of 8-12 Hertz and may be distracting, contributing to eye fatigue.

Similarly, during the virtual reality therapy session, the use of stereoscopic screen can provoke visual stress because even a minimal change in the position of the helmet on the head can create a significant impact at the level or the convergence of the eyes. This can be solved by wearing the helmet in such a way so as to ensure greater stability on the user’s head.

Task’s characteristics: It usually entails three elements. First, the control of movements in the virtual environment diminishes the appearance of symptoms. Second, different characteristics of the visual image can also diminish the appearance of symptoms, the quality of the field of vision, the content of the scene etc. And finally, the interaction with the task — say a session of more than 40 minutes — can lead to nausea. Typically, a seated position is preferable to a standing one.

Control factors 

Keeping in mind the current effects of cybersickness, there are many virtual therapy sessions available today. Simply put, it’s a method of psychotherapy that uses virtual reality technology to treat patients with anxiety disorders, phobias as well as addictions. In addition to technological advancements, certain general precautions can also be taken in order to attenuate the intensity of cybersickness during a virtual therapy session:

 The contrasts between indications of nervousness and side effects of cybersickness ought to be disclosed to the person undergoing the session. On the off chance that the individual feels an inconvenience identified with adjustment to virtual reality (and not identified with manifestations of nervousness), the session should be ended quickly. 

 The term of the introduction ought to be 20 to 30 minutes and the person ought to hold up 20 minutes after the session before leaving for home.

 People experiencing genuine medicinal issues, maniacal scatters or those on psychotropic substances fit for instigating noteworthy physiological or mental impacts are not ideal candidates for a virtual reality session.

 The person taking the session should be on a seat besides a railing so that he has something to hold on to during the session, if need be.

(The author is a senior consultant & Head — ENT, Primus Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi)

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