"There is a body of research suggesting women have poorer spatial ability than men," Hite said. "However, when partitioning spatial memory from spatial ability, other studies have shown that women fared better than men, suggesting spatial processing may be genetically, perhaps evolutionarily, different between the sexes."
Hite's work focuses on educational VR, and suggests there are cognitive differences between how men and women learn in virtual reality. But VR, of course, encompasses much more than education. What about games and films and all of the other forms of VR? Virtual reality has been on the cultural schedule as the Next Big Thing for a suspiciously long time now. What's the hold up?
Well, one of the major speed bumps to widespread adoption of VR is the phenomenon of simulator sickness. Simply put, too many people, upon first experiencing virtual reality, become nauseous and dizzy. It's the virtual equivalent of motion sickness, and it's been a problem in the industry since day one. Developers have spent a long time tweaking technical issues like resolution and latency to try to solve it.
RELATED: Immerse Yourself in a Virtual Scuba Dive
Along the way, they encountered another odd complication: For years, anecdotal evidence suggested women tended to get sick more than men. In 2014, marquee researcher and media scholar Danah Boyd published results of her own scientific testing on the matter. Her findings - that actual biological sex characteristics affect perception in VR - were published in a widely read and deliberately provocative article "Is the Oculus Rift sexist?" The contention: Systems like the Oculus Rift, largely developed by men, inadvertently discriminate against women.
Emerging research seems to back this up. Thomas Stoffregen, professor of kinesiology with the University of Minnesota, is currently doing work in the area, running tests with the Oculus Rift specifically. So far, the results are pretty alarming.
"We got hold of an Oculus Rift and we took it down to the lab," Stoffregen said. "Sure enough, women were more than twice as likely as men to get sick in virtual reality than men."
RELATED: VR Glove Makes Virtual Objects Feel Real
There are many potential reasons for this, Stoffregen said. For one thing, previous research has shown that motion sickness is simply more common among women than men, whether in the virtual world or the real world. But more importantly, virtual reality systems have to be carefully calibrated to approximate the sensation of actual presence in a virtual world. A system built by men may feel off to women for the simplest of reasons.
"It's good old fashioned sexual dimorphism," Stoffregen said. "Men tend to be taller and women tend to be shorter. Generally, the center of mass is lower in women and higher in men. Those two basic differences in physical form are extremely important."
Other factors may be involved as well. Click around online and you'll find all sorts of weirdness involving terms like motion parallax, luminescence cues, shape-from-shading and sense of presence. While there's no consensus on what causes these gender differences in VR, there's general agreement now that they exist.
And that's where female VR entrepreneurs like Busoni come back into the picture. By bringing a woman's perspective to VR - quite literally - she hopes to build a more equitable virtual world from the ground up. She's in a good place. This new wave of virtual reality development is generally seen as one of the more diverse areas in the male-dominated tech world.
"I've always been pretty passionate about education and accessibility," Busoni said. "I've never felt as welcome in a community as I have in the VR community. Everyone understands that we need to create the VR industry and environment together, so we build each other up."