It's looking more and more likely that the world's top tech companies were so blinded to their gender bias that they spent billions of dollars on a technology that half the population probably can't even comfortably use. Back in 2014 just before the VR hype wave hit a new peak, renowned sociologist danah boyd expressed deep concerns based on her own early research that virtual reality literally made most women sick. "I want folks to take what I did and push it further," danah told me at the time. "If researchers start to investigate this issue, I'll be ecstatic."
They have, and according to Science News, some new studies are backing up danah's earlier insights:
Stoffregen’s research suggests women are also more prone to VR sickness than men. In a study published in December in Experimental Brain Research, Stoffregen and colleagues measured the postural sway of 72 college students before they were asked to play one of two VR games for 15 minutes using an Oculus Rift DK2. The first game made two of 18 men and six of 18 women feel motion sick, not enough for a statistically significant difference. But more than half of the students who played the horror game Affected, using a handheld controller to explore a dark, spooky building, reported feeling sick. Of the 18 women playing that game, 14 felt sick. That’s nearly 78 percent, compared with just over 33 percent of the men.
... [Bas] Rokers has another explanation for the gender difference that fits with the sensory mismatch theory. In a study published in January 2016 in Entertainment Computing, Rokers and colleagues looked at how visual acuity might affect susceptibility to VR sickness. Seventy-three people with either natural or corrected 20/20 vision completed a battery of visual tests and then spent up to 20 minutes in an Oculus Rift DK1 headset watching videos. The videos showed motion from different points of view, such as a drone flying around a bridge or a passenger in a car driving through mild traffic. Of the female participants, 75 percent felt sick enough to stop watching before the 20 minutes had passed, compared with 41 percent of the men.
Intriguingly, this seems to be happening because women tend to be better at perceiving 3D motion, and are therefore more likely to tell when 3D motion is being faked (i.e. in VR), which causes their subsequent sea sickness. The whole article is worth reading, but the bottom line from a market perspective is this: Any predictions of VR going mass market should factor in the likelihood that half the market may never even be able to use VR without probably puking.
Hat tip: Kottke.org.