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Anyone for quantifiable VR mindfulness?

Whats the point of virtual reality? At this nascent stage thequestion remains hanging in the pixelated air like the promise of abetter life off-world. As does the associated unknown of whether the techs promise of exceptional submersion will stand the test of hour and attain the leap to mainstream appeal.

For now, on the content side, VR principally entails a few gaming experiences with comparatively niche appeal( given the pro kit needed to power them ), and experimental or quasi-educational content such as virtual tours, medical therapy, and attempts to fosterempathy by embodyinganother first person view. But another idea is to use VR to foster mindfulness by tuning out the day-to-day and tuning into some calming VR vistas.

U.S. digital health company Provata Healthis one of severalcompanies hoping to harness the technologys power as an escapist medium by using it asa backdrop for guidedmeditations and has just launched a VRiOS app.

Idea being you slipon a mobile VR headset and use the app to experience aguided meditation within a 360 -degree calming visual surrounding, such as sitting on a beach or next to a waterfall.( Although Provatasapp can also be used for guided meditations without shall be required to put one over an iPhone-compatible VR headset simply with the same peaceful landscape to swipe around onscreen .)

Also incorporated into itsapp: the ability to connection health-trackingwearables, such as the Apple Watch, to quantify the effects ofa meditation conference on, for example, your resting heart rate. Or look at how your sleep is being affected by taking time out to meditate. The company tells the app can also be used totrackpre and post meditation heart rate using just asmartphone camera for those who dont owna fitness wearable.

Theres an increasing number of apps and digital services focusing on the mindfulnessspace including the likes ofHeadspace, CalmandSimple Habit. Even Apple has a relaxation app for its Watch wearable, called Breathe. Provata also has a widerdigital health play selling guided programs via employers wanting to offer staff encouragement to take up health-boostingactivities but the VR app is its first step into the consumer mindfulness space.CEO Alex Goldberg tells its hopingto pioneer a new category of digital health: Virtual Reality Preventive Care.

We create all the guided meditations ourselves, he tells TechCrunch.At the beginning of each meditation, the user is asked to look around to help them find a spot to relax to pacify their mind before settling in on an ideal view for performing your meditation. We want users to experiment with different orientations within each immersive surrounding. Certain meditations reference the physical surroundings more than other meditations.

Goldberg tells Provatas existing wellness programs, which include content focused on encouraging fitness and helping people improve their nutrition, have been tested through NIH and CDC money clinical trials. But the new VR meditation app is, at this point, untested in efficacy much like the rest of the VR category.

We plan to conduct a peer-reviewed study on this, especially now that we have meditation biofeedback integrated into the app, letting users track their heart rate pre and post meditation, tells Goldberg. The study will be looking at comparative heart rate trends as well as reported stress and depression scores among users.

The peer-reviewed study of our digital health program,( Healthy Team Healthy U ), became the first digital health program proven to positively impact both the mental health and physical health of participantsOne of the reasons why we were able to reduce depression and stress is because the program integrates and for most of our participants, introduces them to guided meditation workouts as a strategy to improve their mental health. The study saw reductions in stress scores and depression scores( using a 7-point Likert scale ), particularly among those participants reporting high levels of workplace stress prior to the program.

We see Provata VR as an opportunity to broaden awareness and are used in guided meditation to enhance these outcomes among a wider audience.

Whether theres any contradiction in the concept of focusing on your own mind as an anti-stress strategy and means to increasecalmness/ achieve greater self-awareness vs relying on a VR headset to artificially inducea feeling of tranquility is up for debate. Safe to say, VR meditation is not going to be for everybody but perhaps it might offer a road into a stress-relieving activity for people who otherwise might struggle to tune out their daily life without the help of a prop.

Meditations in the app are purposefully short, tells Goldberg, with two, five, and ten minute alternatives as one style to avoid people spending too much hour sucked into VR( which can itself have negative physiological impacts, such as nausea or, in my own experience, eye strain ), and also because he claims even a few minutes meditation per day has beenfound to produce beneficial effects in numerous studies.

We havent had any reports of negative psychological impacts. We also think the high quality 4K videos help, he adds.

While the app is a free download and offers some content without needing to pay, there is also a subscription service costly $3.99 per month or $35.99 per year for access to more exotic locatings as a backdrop for meditations.

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