Many people aspire to be more mindful by living in the present moment. The practice of mindfulness is often associated with the absence of technology. We’re told that if we ditch our phones, our laptops, our iPods and simply unplug, that we will feel calmer and even happier. But could hi-tech wearables, such as Oculus Rift VR, actually play a role in guiding people to that happy place?
Cubicle Ninjas, a design and development creative agency in Chicago, is so certain that VR has a place in relaxation, health and wellness that they built Guided Meditation, a VR Beta app to help people get to their happy place. Whether it is a patient who is anxiously awaiting surgery, a post-op burn victim, or a family with little time to get away from the daily grind, the Guided Meditation app is transporting them to the beach, the mountains, a tropical jungle in South America, or wherever it is they find their Zen.
Josh Farkas, CEO of Cubicle Ninjas, began developing Guided Meditation two years ago with the first development kit. His team explored several different apps including an apartment tour and the scene from Jurassic Park where the wearer is getting chased by a dinosaur. But they kept returning to the idea of using the technology to create a sort of vacation for the mind.
And they quickly discovered that people, who had found themselves in unfortunate circumstances, such as having to undergo hours of chemotherapy, could be mentally transported, even if only temporarily. “There’s this thing called environmental psychology,” said Josh. “When you’re placed in a different space, you think differently. Just even being in another spot, not in a hospital room, for ten minutes has a profound effect.”
In a study on burn patients, VR was found to be more effective than morphine in terms of being beneficial for pain, said Josh. Burn victims experienced a 50% reduction in pain when they were transported through virtual reality.
Because of the visceral reaction that patients experience with VR, Josh believes its healing powers are nearly endless. “If you put a virtual nose in space, that someone can just see right off the side, people won’t get so sick by like 50%. There are these weird mind hacks that we still know nothing about.” And it’s this unexplored connection between the mind and the body that makes the horizon seem infinite.
Guided Meditation has been downloaded over 25,000 times. It’s currently programed with 20 different destinations, and 40 more are in the pipeline.
While Josh admits there’s still years worth of data and discussion before hospitals and health care administers will definitively accept VR as a healing tool, he also knows that it’s evident VR is making people very, very happy. And he doesn’t need the healthcare industry to validate that.
“There’s actually a thing called the VR giggle,” Josh said. It’s where people have an innate, childlike response to the technology after putting it on for the first time. Because they start to realize, ‘Wait, this is real.’ And it’s only going to get better.