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Motion Sickness & the new Apple iOS Parallex Mapping Design

Posted by Cynthia Ryan

The Vestibular Disorders Association (VeDA) is aware of concerns by some users of Apple's new i0S 7 Software designed for the company’s iPhone and iPad products, who report that the parallax effect may cause some users to experience vestibular symptoms such as motion sickness and dizziness. These symptoms may manifest even more severely if a viewer already has motion sickness sensitivity or certain disorders of the vestibular system. An estimated 69 million US adults aged 40 and over—35% of all Americans—experience vestibular system dysfunction. According to Wikipedia, a simple everyday example of parallax can be seen in the dashboard of motor vehicles that use a needle-style speedometer gauge. When viewed from directly in front, the speed may show exactly 60; but when viewed from the passenger seat the needle may appear to show a slightly different speed, due to the angle of viewing. Another example is when you look at an object with one eye, then look at it with the other eye and its position in space appears to shift. This effect is described in end-user and design terms on Apple's web site. Apple writes, "Interactions are dynamic. Animations are cinematic. And the experience is lively and spirited in so many unexpected yet perfectly natural ways. Open the Weather app, for example, and you’ll instantly understand. Hail bounces off text, and fog passes in front of it. Storm clouds come into view with a flash of lightning...distinct and functional layers help create depth and establish hierarchy and order. The use of translucency provides a sense of context and place. And new approaches to animation and motion make even the simplest tasks more engaging." While VeDA cannot comment on any specific cases of Apple’s product design creating or resulting in motion sickness, medical science shows that viewing 3-D images can have unexpected side effects: intense nausea, dizziness, and vertigo. These symptoms often result from visual-vestibular conflicts. The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that process the sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements. The vestibular organs of the inner ear provide the brain with information about where the body is in physical space, signaling whether the self or the environment is in motion. Films and software using 3-D technology are made by recording and projecting separate images for each eye in order to create an illusion of greater depth and movement. This illusion conflicts with information from the vestibular organs, which signal that the body is still. When the brain attempts to resolve the contradiction, distressing symptoms may result. For users of the new Apple iOS 7 software experiencing vestibular symptoms, VeDA can recommend utilizing the software's feature to reduce and/or disable the motion effect by turning off the "Reduce Motion" feature from the Settings | Accessibility menu. However, this only affects the home page.

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