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The role of binocular disparity and active motion parallax in cybersickness


Cybersickness is an enduring problem for users of virtual environments. While it is generally assumed that cybersickness is caused by discrepancies in perceived self-motion between the visual and vestibular systems, little is known about the relative contribution of active motion parallax and binocular disparity to the occurrence of cybersickness. We investigated the role of these two depth cues in cybersickness by simulating a roller-coaster ride using a head-mounted display. Participants could see the tracks via a virtual frame placed at the front of the roller-coaster cart. We manipulated the state of the frame, so it behaved like: (1) a window into the virtual scene, (2) a 2D screen, (3) and (4) a window for one of the two depth cues, and a 2D screen for the other. Participants completed the Simulator Sickness Questionnaire before and after the experiment, and verbally reported their level of discomfort at repeated intervals during the ride. Additionally, participants’ electrodermal activity (EDA) was recorded. The results of the questionnaire and the continuous ratings revealed the largest increase in cybersickness when the frame behaved like a window, and least increase when the frame behaved like a 2D screen. Cybersickness scores were at an intermediate level for the conditions where the frame simulated only one depth cue. This suggests that neither active motion parallax nor binocular disparity had a more prominent effect on the severity of cybersickness. The EDA responses increased at about the same rate in all conditions, suggesting that EDA is not necessarily coupled with subjectively experienced cybersickness.

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  1. The virtual “Alberti Frame” makes reference to Leon Battista Alberti, the Italian Renaissance architect, artist, and mathematician who, in the 15th century, worked out the geometry of central projection. One of his techniques involved systematically copying the optic array seen from a fixed viewpoint through an empty frame onto the canvas spanned by a second frame.


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We wish to thank Xiaoye Michael Wang for useful suggestions and discussions. This research was funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Discovery Grant and contributions from Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) VISTA to NFT, and a CFREF VISTA fellowship to AT.

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Correspondence to Siavash Eftekharifar.

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Eftekharifar, S., Thaler, A., Bebko, A.O. et al. The role of binocular disparity and active motion parallax in cybersickness. Exp Brain Res 239, 2649–2660 (2021).

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  • Cybersickness
  • Active motion parallax
  • Binocular disparity
  • Virtual reality
  • Roller-coaster