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Scholar Making VR and Augmented Reality Accessible for Everyone

Posted on Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Virtual and augmented reality are more than tools for a fun video game experience. This revolutionary technology is now used for training in medical fields and workforces. But there’s only one problem: about fifty percent of the world’s population gets motion sickness. Women who use VR are more prone to motion sickness, and she’s on the hunt to find out why.

Hutton Pospick, a Minnesota ARCS Scholar, will be receiving her PhD in Computer Science from the University of Minnesota in a few months. While her focus is in VR interactions and perception, she works at UM's Illusioneering Laboratory, where they study motion sickness. Hutton Pospick explains, “One of the big problems we have right now is with motion sickness. It's something that we know can impact people, like women who use VR headsets, but we don't necessarily know why.”

Hutton Pospick shares that there are a lot of variables that play into the cause of motion sickness, and it’s similar to motion sickness one gets from cars, boats, or roller coasters. One theory is optical flow. Optical flow occurs when images passing your peripheral vision cause motion sickness. Another theory is postural stability, which relates to balance. “If people stand on a balance board, you can see a shift in their balance,” says Hutton Pospick. “And the people who get motion sick, it becomes really irregular, and we see it start to happen before they get sick.”

Hutton Pospick is passionate about making virtual and augmented reality accessible to everyone. In medical and technical fields, they’re beginning to use VR and AR for training or intensive surgeries. Hutton Pospick explains, “If there's a complex surgery that needs to be done, AR and VR give doctors and nurses the chance to go through and practice those surgeries that are going to take twenty-four hours. If you have those scans, we can bring them into the environment. And you can literally move them around relayer and manipulate them to get a chance to practice and see different things.”

She also said that augmented reality is more often used as a collaboration tool for a wider workforce audience. “In city planning, designing art, or other similar fields, you can make something in 3D and talk about it, move it, and change it all at once collaboratively, where everyone can see what you're talking about at the same time.”

Hutton Pospick expresses immense gratitude toward ARCS for the Scholar Award as it is what kept her and her husband afloat during the pandemic. She became an ARCS Scholar in 2020 when everything was changing. “ARCS couldn’t have come at a better time,” Hutton Pospick shares. She originally intended to use the money for professional development, but the pandemic had other plans. “My husband was just laid off a week after moving into a new place. So, the money ended up coming in and making a huge difference in our lives while he was unemployed.” Besides the Scholar Award, Hutton Pospick is grateful to the ARCS community. She enjoys learning about other scholars’ research and sharing her own.

Courtney Hutton Pospick ARCS MN Scholar