Using intelligent lighting against motion sickness




Student project


My role

Establishing context

Onboard cruise ships, people can feel motion but they may not see it, which can lead to motion sickness. Using light projections can counter such sensory incongruence and thus reduce sickness. While lab-proven from a human perception viewpoint, in this student research project, we looked at it from the perspective of wellbeing.

Simple (hand-coded!) animation of a large ferry moving in response to the waves. This movement is what causes motion sickness, especially when someone is inside and can't see the horizon as a stable reference.

Focus groups and ferry visits

We were interested in understanding human attitudes towards motion sickness. We first conducted focus groups to gather qualitative insight on personal experiences and implications of motion sickness. I organised and ran these as the facilitator. In addition, we conducted interviews onboard two large ferries (operated by DFDS and Stenaline) to integrate experiences and perspectives from the staff. These interviews were analysed using affinity diagrams (so, lots of post-its on a wall).

Affinity mapping of focus group data. Hierarchical order is green → orange → blue → and finally yellow for interviewee's statements. Image deliberately kept small to avoid sharing personal info.

Seesaw simulator experiment

The interviews were followed by a lab experiment with light projections to get experiential data. We built a simulator to test our projection-based idea and gather experiential feedback from people. As shown in the top image, a seesaw was used to simulate movement while projections were shown on a curved screen surrounding the seesaw. The curved screen was necessary to eliminate corners that could provide spatial reference in an otherwise dark room (we wanted only our visuals to provide such reference so we could clearly compare their effectiveness in reducing motion-induced discomfort).

4m diameter circle with seesaw positioned in the middle, with a projection of 3x2 meters
Schematic overview of our motion sickness simulator, using two projectors to illuminate a rounded canvas, while a seesaw was manually moved in wave-motion-like fashion.

Projected visuals

I created both abstract and realistic visuals, some of which are shown below.

greyscale illustration of seagulls flying around with two ships in the background

abstract image of green cubes below and blue cubes above fading into distant horizon

flat-shaded cubes coloured blue and yellow representing a horizon line

colour illustration of seagulls flying around with two ships in the background

photo skyline of Hong Kong

photo of dense rainforest


Our findings suggested personal experiences are more diverse than is commonly assumed. Viewing a projected sea vista, just like looking outside through a window, may have negative effects due to the apparent realisation that one is at sea and thus susceptible to seasickness. This finding is contradictory to prior studies and was therefore surprising. It illustrates the value of experiential measures for a (partially) subjective experience such as motion sickness. In our final report, we presented our findings in relation to preliminary requirements and caveats for this kind of technique.

This MSc Human-Technology Interaction student project was supervised by Prof Yvonne de Kort and Prof Wijnand IJsselstein at Eindhoven University of Technology.