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Our Phones Are Going to Make Us Sick, But We’re Scared to Live Without Them

Just like those who suffer from motion sickness can't really avoid transportation, those prone to simulator sickness will have a hard time avoiding phones and computer screens

As virtual reality technology gets better and cheaper, it’s becoming more ubiquitous. And, as a result, the iPhone’s new operating is giving some people a feeling once reserved for IMAX and fancy graphics—stomach-turning queasiness. That nausea that you feel while zooming in and out of a landscape in the theater? Some are getting it when they simply turn on their phone.

The recent release of Apple’s iOS 7 has seen several complaints about zooming-induced motion sickness—a phenomenon called simulator sickness. Manolya Kavakli at The Conversation quotes one person of many who have complained about the phenomenon on forums:

I thought I was going crazy today after I updated my phone and I noticed I was feeling queasy every time I used it. Now I see I am not alone! I just used my phone for about 20 minutes and now I feel like I’m going to vomit.

I’m now going on day three of total nausea. At first I didn’t want to believe it’s because of iOS 7, but I can’t stand even looking at non animation areas for more than a few minutes even typing this.

Of course, simulator sickness isn’t new. Christopher Mims at Quartz reminds us that the military has used simulators for training for years. “Motion sickness arises when our inner ear senses movement but our eyes don’t perceive any, whereas simulation sickness is the inverse: We see motion that should indicate we’re moving when we’re not,” he explains.

For a long time, you could simply avoid these simulator machines. But now that they’re creeping into our phones, those who suffer are left with fewer choices. Because let’s be honest—people aren’t going to give up phones. Just like those who suffer from motion sickness can’t really avoid transportation, those prone to simulator sickness will have a hard time avoiding phones and computer screens.

There’s even a phobia of not having access to your phone. It’s called Nomophobia, and according to a British survey 54 percent of people suffer from it. And we already know that 83 percent of millenials sleep with their phones next to them in bed.

So what does the future hold for those prone to simulator sickness? A lot of nausea, most likely. They can only hope that voice command technology gets better.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Even NASA Doesn’t Know Exactly What Causes Motion Sickness (But There Is a Way to Avoid It)

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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