Feeling Woozy? It May Be Cyber Sickness
If you are watching computer-generated mayhem in the latest action film or scrolling rapidly on your smartphone, you may start to feel a little off. Maybe it is a dull headache or dizziness or creeping nausea.
And no, it is not something you ate.
A peculiar side effect of the 21st century is something called digital motion sickness or cybersickness. Increasingly common, according to medical and media experts, it causes a person to feel woozy, as if on a boat in a churning sea, from viewing moving digital content.
这只是21世纪的一个奇特的副作用，叫做数码动晕症(digital motion sickness)，通俗地称之为“晕屏幕”(cybersickness)。医学和媒体专家称，这种人因为观看活动的数码媒体内容而感到头昏眼花，有如乘船在大海上颠簸的现象正越来越普遍。
“It’s a fundamental problem that’s been kind of been swept under the carpet in the tech industry,” said Cyriel Diels, a cognitive psychologist and human factors researcher at Coventry University’s Center for Mobility and Transport in England. “It’s a natural response to an unnatural environment.”
“这个重要的问题可以说在高新技术产业一直被掩盖，”英格兰考文垂大学(Coventry University)交通及运输中心(Center for Mobility and Transport)的认知心理学家和人为因素研究员西里尔·迪尔斯(Cyriel Diels)说。“它是对不自然环境的一种自然反应。”
Digital motion sickness, known among medical professionals as visually induced motion sickness, stems from a basic mismatch between sensory inputs, said Steven Rauch, medical director of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Balance and Vestibular Center and professor of otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School.
马萨诸塞州眼耳平衡和前庭中心(Massachusetts Eye and Ear Balance and Vestibular Center)的医务主任、哈佛医学院(Harvard Medical School)的耳鼻咽喉科教授史蒂文·劳赫(Steven Rauch)表示，在医学专业人士看来，数码动晕症是一种由视觉诱发的动晕症，其根源在于感官输入信号之间不匹配。
“Your sense of balance is different than other senses in that it has lots of inputs,” he said. “When those inputs don’t agree, that’s when you feel dizziness and nausea.”
In traditional motion sickness, the mismatch occurs because you feel movement in your muscles and joints as well as in the intricate coils of your inner ear, but you do not see it. That is why getting up on the deck of a ship and looking at the horizon helps you feel better.
But with digital motion sickness, it is the opposite. You see movement — like the turns and twists shown in a movie or video game car chase — that you do not feel. The result is the same: You may have sensory conflict that can make you feel queasy.
It can happen to anyone, even if you are someone who is not prone to motion sickness in cars, boats or airplanes. Various studies indicate it can affect 50 percent to 80 percent of people, depending on the fidelity of the digital content and how it is presented.
Studies show that women are more susceptible than men, as are those with a history of migraines or concussion. Anecdotally, researchers say that people with traits associated with the “Type A” personality — such as perfectionism or ambition — also seem to be more vulnerable. Nobody knows exactly why this might be, but one theory is that people with these traits may also have a tendency to be more alert and reactive to sensory inputs, similar to people who get migraines.
Often symptoms are subtle. As a result, many people with digital motion sickness do not quite know what is causing their discomfort, typically chalking it up to stress, stomach upset, eyestrain or vertigo.
None of this is news to the military, which has long known about the sickness that even seasoned pilots can feel in flight simulators. And the problem has only gotten worse as simulators have gotten better with virtual reality and 3D imagery.
It is the same sort of mind-bending artistry that is now pervading television and film and that even underlies the way the icons seem to float on your smartphone’s home screen. Quick cuts, rapid panning and first-person-view camera angles intensify the effect.
“The idea is to get audiences to feel like participants in the action rather than outside observers of the action,” said Jonathan Weinstein, a former film producer and now a professor at the Kanbar Institute for Film and Television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. “It makes viewers more connected to the story — or it makes them hurl because in a film there’s really no horizon to look at.”
“我们想让观众感觉自己正身临其境，亲身参与，而不仅仅是作壁上观的局外人，”曾经的电影制片人，如今的纽约大学(New York University)Tisch艺术学院(Tisch School of the Arts)Kanbar影视研究院(Kanbar Institute for Film and Television)教授乔纳森·温斯坦(Jonathan Weinstein)说。“它让观众更容易融入故事当中——又或者说，更容易让你头晕目眩，毕竟电影里可没有‘地平线’来帮你调适。”
Indeed, there is a website called MovieHurl.com that rates movies on how likely they are to make you feel sick. And mobile device and gamer forums are full of postings looking for advice on how to engage with the latest operating systems and interfaces without throwing up.
Apple had to add extra accessibility settings to its mobile operating system to allow users to tone down the visual stimuli. And executives at Oculus V.R., makers of the much-anticipated virtual reality headset Oculus Rift (the company was purchased by Facebook last year for $2 billion), have said digital motion sickness is one of their biggest hurdles.
苹果公司(Apple)不得不在其移动操作系统中额外添加了辅助功能设置，以降低对用户的视觉刺激。万众期待的虚拟现实耳机Oculus Rift的制造商Oculus VR公司（该公司已于去年被Facebook以20亿美元的价格收购）的高管表示，数码动晕症是令他们头痛不已的最大障碍之一。
“The more realistic something is, the more likely you are going to get sick,” said Thomas Stoffregen, professor of kinesiology at the University of Minnesota, who has done extant research on digital motion sickness. “No one got sick playing Pac-Man.”
“一个东西显得越真实，就越有可能让你感到恶心，”明尼苏达大学(University of Minnesota)的运动学教授，数码动晕症的研究者托马斯·施托夫雷根(Thomas Stoffregen)说。“谁都不会因为玩吃豆人而恶心”。
Balance specialists said the problem can often be improved with habituation — watching, say, a chaotically cut film or playing a virtual reality game in short spurts just until the onset of mild symptoms, then recovering and repeating at specified intervals.
“People usually respond well if we have them do it in a very controlled, conservative way,” said Lisa Heusel-Gillig, a physical therapist and neurological clinical specialist at the Emory Dizziness and Balance Center in Atlanta.
“在以高度可控且非常保守的方式来进行上述习惯化训练时，人们通常反应不错。”亚特兰大Emory眩晕和平衡中心(Emory Dizziness and Balance Center)的物理治疗师及神经科临床专家莉莎·休塞尔-吉利格(Lisa Heusel-Gillig)说。
But some experts wonder whether it is a good idea to train your brain to ignore conflicting sensory stimuli because it might inhibit your ability to react appropriately in the real world.
“There are certainly concerns, particularly when it comes to long term exposure,” said Kay Stanney, a human factors researcher in Orlando, Fla., who consults with the military and businesses on the design and use of virtual reality and other immersive technologies.
“这样肯定会产生隐患，尤其是涉及长期接触的时候，”佛罗里达州奥兰多市的人为因素研究员凯·史丹尼(Kay Stanney)说。她是军方和企业在虚拟现实和其他沉浸式技术（immersive technologies，又译身临其境技术）的设计和使用领域的顾问之一。
Dr. Stanney said her team has tested more than a thousand subjects in virtual reality sessions and has seen that the magnitude of aftereffects can be strong and long lasting. When study subjects returned to the real world,they had trouble with visual focusing, tracking images and hand-eye coordination.
Dr. Stanney said her team also measured a fundamental shift in people’s postural stability.
The worry is that a teenager, after several hours of playing a virtual reality game, might get behind the wheel of a car and have balance and vision impairments similar to being drunk. Lengthy viewing of high-definition televisions or scrolling wildly on a phone might also somehow alter people’s sense of equilibrium, making them more likely to trip and fall.
“Long-term studies need to be done to understand the full impact,” Dr. Stanney said. “In the military you can be grounded for up to 12 hours after a simulator session because they understand the aftereffects are real.”