The Effects of Auditory, Visual, and Cognitive Distractions on Cybersickness in Virtual Reality

Rohith Venkatakrishnan, Roshan Venkatakrishnan, Balagopal Raveendranath, Dawn M. Sarno, Andrew C. Robb, Wen Chieh Lin, Sabarish V. Babu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Cybersickness (CS) is one of the challenges that has hindered the widespread adoption of Virtual Reality (VR). Consequently, researchers continue to explore novel means to mitigate the undesirable effects associated with this affliction, one that may require a combination of remedies as opposed to a solitary stratagem. Inspired by research probing into the use of distractions as a means to control pain, we investigated the efficacy of this countermeasure against CS, studying how the introduction of temporally time-gated distractions affects this malady during a virtual experience featuring active exploration. Downstream of this, we discuss how other aspects of the VR experience are affected by this intervention. We discuss the results of a between-subjects study manipulating the presence, sensory modality, and nature of periodic and short-lived (5-12 seconds) distractor stimuli across 4 experimental conditions: (1) no-distractors (ND); (2) auditory distractors (AD); (3) visual distractors (VD); (4) cognitive distractors (CD). Two of these conditions (VD and AD) formed a yoked control design wherein every matched pair of ‘seers’ and ‘hearers’ was periodically exposed to distractors that were identical in terms of content, temporality, duration, and sequence. In the CD condition, each participant had to periodically perform a 2-back working memory task, the duration and temporality of which was matched to distractors presented in each matched pair of the yoked conditions. These three conditions were compared to a baseline control group featuring no distractions. Results indicated that the reported sickness levels were lower in all three distraction groups in comparison to the control group. The intervention was also able to both increase the amount of time users were able to endure the VR simulation, as well as avoid causing detriments to spatial memory and virtual travel efficiency. Overall, it appears that it may be possible to make users less consciously aware and bothered by the symptoms of CS, thereby reducing its perceived severity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Active Exploration
  • Cybersickness
  • Cybersickness
  • Distractions
  • Electrodermal Activity
  • Motion sickness
  • Pain
  • Pain Reduction
  • Skin
  • Task analysis
  • Temperature measurement
  • Virtual Motion
  • Virtual Reality
  • Visualization


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