Research Alert

Background: With the influx of medical virtual reality (VR) technologies, cybersickness has transitioned from a nuisance experienced during leisure activities to a potential safety and efficacy concern for patients and clinicians. To improve health equity, it is important to understand any potential differences in cybersickness propensity among demographic groups, including racial groups. Objective: This study aims to explore whether cybersickness propensity differs across racial groups. Methods: We collected self-reported cybersickness ratings from 6 racially diverse independent samples within 1 laboratory group (N=931). In these studies, the participants were asked to perform tasks in VR such as traversing environments, pointing at and selecting objects, and interacting with virtual humans. Results: Significant racial differences in cybersickness were found in 50% (3/6) of studies. A mini meta-analysis revealed that, on average, Black participants reported approximately one-third of SD less cybersickness than White participants (Cohen d=−0.31; P<.001), regardless of the nature of the VR experience. There was no overall difference in reported cybersickness between the Asian and White participants (Cohen d=−0.11; P=.51). Conclusions: Racial differences in cybersickness indicate that researchers, practitioners, and regulators should consider patient demographics when evaluating VR health intervention outcomes. These findings lay the groundwork for future studies that may explore racial differences in cybersickness directly.

Journal Link: Journal of Medical Internet Research