Differences in virtual and physical head orientation predict sickness during active head-mounted display-based virtual reality

Publication Name

Virtual Reality


During head-mounted display (HMD)-based virtual reality (VR), head movements and motion-to-photon-based display lag generate differences in our virtual and physical head pose (referred to as DVP). We propose that large-amplitude, time-varying patterns of DVP serve as the primary trigger for cybersickness under such conditions. We test this hypothesis by measuring the sickness and estimating the DVP experienced under different levels of experimentally imposed display lag (ranging from 0 to 222 ms on top of the VR system’s ~ 4 ms baseline lag). On each trial, seated participants made continuous, oscillatory head rotations in yaw, pitch or roll while viewing a large virtual room with an Oculus Rift CV1 HMD (head movements were timed to a computer-generated metronome set at either 1.0 or 0.5 Hz). After the experiment, their head-tracking data were used to objectively estimate the DVP during each trial. The mean, peak, and standard deviation of these DVP data were then compared to the participant’s cybersickness ratings for that trial. Irrespective of the axis, or the speed, of the participant’s head movements, the severity of their cybersickness was found to increase with each of these three DVP summary measures. In line with our DVP hypothesis, cybersickness consistently increased with the amplitude and the variability of our participants’ DVP. DVP similarly predicted their conscious experiences during HMD VR—such as the strength of their feelings of spatial presence and their perception of the virtual scene’s stability.

Open Access Status

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Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



Link to publisher version (DOI)