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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 12:20 GMT
Games 'could stop travel sickness'
Mediage, Sonys high-tech interactive entertainment centre, Japan (AP)
A child plays a virtual reality computer game in Japan
Virtual reality computer games could hold the key to combating travel sickness.

UK scientists will use the 200 volunteers they have recruited to test the idea.

Playing of computer games could not only be fun but could also be beneficial in cutting down feelings of sickness whilst travelling

Dr Peter Howarth
The researchers think the body can adjust to the sort of motion that causes queasiness in cars or aeroplanes.

A virtual reality racing car game will be used to mimic the feeling of travel sickness. It is known that motion sickness can be overcome if someone is exposed regularly to real motion.

Dr Peter Howarth of Loughborough University wants to test this phenomenon, known as habituation, in virtual environments.

Cutting corners

Each will be asked to play a virtual racing car game, using head-mounted displays, for 20 minutes at a time.

"It could be that if people play these types of computer games at home and habituate to the appearance of motion, they will experience less motion sickness in the real world," said Dr Howarth.

"So the playing of computer games could not only be fun, but could also be beneficial in cutting down feelings of sickness whilst travelling."

The volunteers will be asked to report back on how they are feeling while they are playing the game.

This will allow the scientists to gather information about how someone adjusts to virtual motion.

The next step will be to see if a person who has become used to experiencing virtual motion will cope better when exposed to real motion.

The Department of Human Sciences at Loughborough has recruited the 200 volunteers it needs to undertake the study. It requires no more.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is funding the work.

See also:

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