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A remote pilot flying a drown without motion sickness.

Why Aviation Medicine Matters in Fighting Motion Sickness with VR Headsets


Those who suffer from motion sickness when using VR headsets share similar symptoms to those experienced by remote pilots, which suggests that there is a common underlying cause. Here, we will explore why aviation medicine has a vital role to play in tackling this issue, and tips on how to prevent it.

What is motion sickness and why does it happen?


Motion sickness is a common condition that occurs when there is a disconnect between what our eyes see and what our inner ear senses. This confusion can lead to symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and a general feeling of discomfort. Motion sickness can happen during various activities, such as travelling in a car or on a boat. In the case of virtual reality (VR) headsets, the mismatch between visual cues and the body’s sense of motion can trigger motion sickness. Understanding the underlying causes of motion sickness is crucial in finding effective solutions. If you are experiencing persistent motion sickness, it is advisable to seek medical advice.

My article on Motion Sickness delves deeper into understanding why this happens.


Virtual reality (VR) technology can be a thrilling and immersive experience, but for some, it can also induce motion sickness. This is due to a conflict between what our eyes perceive and what our inner ear senses, leading to symptoms such as vertigo, nausea, and discomfort.

A VR headset typically functions as a closed compartment with a small screen, often distinct from the real surroundings. If you are moving in a certain direction inside the headset while the movement is in a different direction in reality, a conflict in the perception of motion can occur. Even a slight variation in movements of the same direction can cause a similar effect. This is because such discrepancies can confuse the brain’s perception of motion and cause motion sickness.

The same can be said for remote pilots who operate aircraft through video displays, experiencing similar symptoms. [1,2,3]

This article mentions some detail into why we get motion sickness during flight. It is fundamentally the same situation of your brain getting the wrong messages.

Why remote pilots also suffer from motion sickness


Unlike VR headsets, remote pilots are flying actual aircraft, where motion sickness can have severe and costly consequences if they crash. This challenge can be especially difficult to overcome during long flights, highlighting the importance of seeking medical advice from a doctor who specialises in aviation medicine.

When remote pilots operate aircraft through video displays, their eyes perceive motion, but their inner ear does not sense the same movement. This disconnect between visual and vestibular cues can lead to symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and discomfort. Remote pilots are essentially experiencing a form of virtual reality, where the visual information they receive does not align with their body’s sense of motion. This highlights the need for understanding and addressing the underlying causes of motion sickness in both VR users and remote pilots. If you are a remote pilot suffering from persistent motion sickness, it is advisable to seek medical advice from a doctor who specialises in aviation medicine. [4,5]

How aviation medicine can help combat motion sickness


Aviation medicine plays a crucial role in combating motion sickness for VR users and remote pilots. By understanding the underlying causes of motion sickness, aviation medicine experts can develop effective strategies to alleviate symptoms. For example, vestibular rehabilitation, a type of therapy that focuses on retraining the brain to adjust to conflicting sensory information, can be highly beneficial.

Additionally, aviation medicine professionals can provide advice on medication which can help manage your symptoms while you complete your vestibular rehabilitation. By working with a doctor who specialises in aviation medicine, individuals experiencing motion sickness can find the support they need to enjoy VR experiences or remote piloting without the discomfort of vertigo and nausea.

Tips for preventing motion sickness during VR experiences or Remote Piloting


To prevent motion sickness during VR experiences or remote piloting, there are several strategies you can try. Firstly, take frequent breaks to give your body time to adjust to the virtual environment. It can also help to focus on a fixed point in the virtual scene to provide a sense of stability. Avoid excessive head movements, as this can exacerbate feelings of vertigo. It’s important to ensure proper ventilation and avoid stuffy environments, as this can worsen symptoms. Lastly, try to limit the duration of your VR sessions and gradually increase exposure over time to allow your body to adapt. Remember, if you are a pilot experiencing persistent motion sickness, consulting with an aviation medicine professional can provide you with personalised advice and strategies to manage your symptoms effectively.

References

  1. Saredakis D, Szpak A, Birckhead B, Keage HAD, Rizzo A, Loetscher T. Factors Associated With Virtual Reality Sickness in Head-Mounted Displays: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Front Hum Neurosci. 2020 Mar 31;14:96. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2020.00096. PMID: 32300295; PMCID: PMC7145389.
  2. Recenti M, Ricciardi C, Aubonnet R, Picone I, Jacob D, Svansson HÁR, Agnarsdóttir S, Karlsson GH, Baeringsdóttir V, Petersen H, Gargiulo P. Toward Predicting Motion Sickness Using Virtual Reality and a Moving Platform Assessing Brain, Muscles, and Heart Signals. Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2021 Apr 1;9:635661. doi: 10.3389/fbioe.2021.635661. PMID: 33869153; PMCID: PMC8047066.
  3. Won J, Kim YS. A New Approach for Reducing Virtual Reality Sickness in Real Time: Design and Validation Study. JMIR Serious Games. 2022 Sep 27;10(3):e36397. doi: 10.2196/36397. PMID: 36166294; PMCID: PMC9555332.
  4. Seok KH, Kim Y, Son W, Kim YS. Using Visual Guides to Reduce Virtual Reality Sickness in First-Person Shooter Games: Correlation Analysis. JMIR Serious Games. 2021 Jul 15;9(3):e18020. doi: 10.2196/18020. PMID: 34264196; PMCID: PMC8323020.
  5. Wojciechowski P, Blaszczyk J. Choroba symulatorowa w szkoleniu pilotów wojskowych i cywilnych różnych typów statków powietrznych [Simulator sickness in the aircraft training of military and civil pilots of various types of aircraft]. Med Pr. 2019 Jun 14;70(3):317-325. Polish. doi: 10.13075/mp.5893.00766. Epub 2019 May 21. PMID: 31162483.

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