New Canadian VR experiment aims to help with space travel, healthcare

York University researchers are using a VR experiment to better understand astronauts' perception

Vection VR experiment

A team of scientists from Toronto’s York University is developing an experiment that uses virtual reality system to test astronauts’ perception of their motion.

The experiment is called ‘Vection,’ a term that describes the feeling of thinking you are moving when immobile that is brought on by seeing another object in motion.

With Vection, scientists intend to study how astronauts process their movement while in a virtual reality environment. This data will go towards designing safer methods of moving around the International Space Station and may also help future astronauts land spaceships.

Vection VR experiment

The experiment, which is led by Dr. Laurence Harris, is set to include three simulations to test different areas of perception. A first test will look at how astronauts estimate the size of an object to reveal any errors in perceived distance.

Meanwhile, a second test will simulate motion down a corridor, with astronauts indicating when they arrive at the position of a previously viewed target. Over- or under-estimation will help researchers understand the strength of the astronauts’ sense of vection.

Finally, the third test will simulate visual motion to see if astronauts are confusing tilt and visual acceleration in weightlessness. These tests will take place before, during and after an astronaut’s mission for a wider range of results.

Outside of the space travel benefits, the scientists say the study may also provide a greater understanding of ailments that affect movement and posture, like Parkinson’s disease or strokes. As well, the study may be able to improve the use of surgical technologies like remotely operated robots.

Vection testing is scheduled to run between  and .

Source: Canadian Space Agency