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Other, Video

Zoom Fatigue is real. VR is here to help.

The term ‘Zoom Fatigue’ was coined over the past year to describe the general malaise associated with constantly being on video calls throughout the day.

Now researchers say that it is a real phenomenon and have identified four main causes including “excessive and intense eye contact, constantly watching video of yourself, the limited mobility of being stuck at your desk, and more energy spent identifying social cues you’d otherwise pick up on intuitively in person.”

Virtual Reality (VR) offers an alternative to video by addressing some of the root causes of Zoom Fatigue.

Excessive and intense eye contact – While eye contact is an important aspect of communication, staring at a panel of faces for prolonged periods of time on a flat screen is simply not natural. VR replaces the flat screen with a shared 3D environment in which participants are spaced naturally apart and conversations mimic those of the real world.

Constantly watching video of yourself – It is natural for humans to fixate on our own appearance and this can distract from natural conversation with others. In VR, everyone is represented as an expressive avatar. This lowers self-judgement and allows for less inhibited conversation.

Limited mobility of being stuck at your desk – Sitting in one place for long periods of time is not healthy mentally or physically. Current VR headsets are not tethered to a computer allowing you to take meetings from anywhere, standing or sitting.

More energy spent identifying social cues – Non-verbal communication can be equally important as speaking and listening. With video calls, those cues typically only happen from the shoulders up and within the confines of a 2D box. In VR, hand gestures, gaze direction, and overall body posture are observable in a 3D environment giving a more complete sense of how someone is reacting to and absorbing information and conversations.

Foretell Reality is a VR platform for remote communication that offers all of the benefits of 3D environments and avatars. We work with our clients to design experiences that fit their use cases in areas like group therapy and support, soft skills training, and business collaboration. Interested in a demo? Click here.

Misc, Survey

60 Second Survey: Virtual Reality (VR) Usage, Benefits, and Future

Study: 3d versus 2d Video for retention and engagement
Therapy and Support, Video

Study: 360 Video in VR Increases Engagement and Retention

Three-dimensional (3D) video is a powerful feature of Virtual Reality (VR) because it fully envelopes the viewer within a panoramic scene. The effect is similar to sitting in a darkened planetarium, convinced that you have been transported to the center of our universe.

But is 3D video just another way to watch content or could there be deeper implications for learning and psychology? A recent study set out to determine this by comparing the psychological state and learning ability of subjects who were shown the same three videos in 2D conditions and in 3D conditions (VR).

As they viewed the videos, their brain signals (EEG signals) and facial reactions (EMG signals) were recorded using a value called fractal dimension. Researchers then developed a universal formula to compare the fractal dimension between the two types of viewing experiences.

The results revealed that “the EMG signal had a greater value of the fractal dimension in response to 3D videos compared to 2D videos, indicating that the EMG signal is more complex in response to 3D videos compared to 2D videos. In other words, the facial muscles are more engaged with stimuli where they are presented in 3D rather than in 2D.”

With regard to learning ability, “the rate of correct responses to the questions posed after watching the 3D video was 92.60%, which was higher than that obtained after the 2D videos at 80.87%. This difference suggested that the 3D videos resulted in greater attention paid to the details of videos and therefore increased the learning ability of the students.”

It is worth noting that the headset used in this particular study was based on cellular phone technology and not the latest, much more powerful headsets now in the marketplace. Given the level of clarity and freedom of movement now available, another study with updated hardware should be considered.

The Foretell Reality platform includes the ability to view 3D video within an environment alone or with others in real time. Some use cases include social viewing, mindfulness training, pain distraction, and exposure therapy. Request a demo to experience it yourself.

Lifestyle, Live events

How to host a Holiday/Any Day AR/VR Party

I guess we are a little late to the party with this one, though the Chinese New Year is not far off and then there’s #VRValentinesDay…

So here it is. To help you prepare for any and all upcoming celebrations, The Glimpse Group (of which Foretell Reality is a subsidiary) has created a video guide to the perfect digitally distanced Holiday/Any Day party.

Though each experience was unique, the underlying engine that powered the social VR experiences was developed by Foretell Reality. From authentication to avatar selection to room assignment to in-room interactions, Foretell Reality provides a consistent, responsive multi-user experience.

Just as we worked with our colleagues to make these celebrations memorable, we work with partners to realize their goals in areas including Therapy and Support, Soft Skills Development, and Corporate Collaboration.

Interested in a demo? Click here.

Soft Skills, Therapy and Support

Study: VR Effective in Treating Public Speaking Anxiety

Public speaking anxiety (PSA) is one of the most common phobias affecting approximately 73% of the population. It is so common that it actually beats out the fear of death, spiders, or heights.

As with many phobias, one common treatment for PSA is exposure therapy. Exposure therapy involves confronting the situation you fear most while being observed and guided by a trained therapist or clinician. Through repeated exposure to what appears to be an insurmountable fear, the level of anxiety and stress are diminished over time.

Traditional exposure therapy can also involve guided visualization. If you are afraid of spiders, you are asked to visualize a spider approaching you. Over time, a real spider may be introduced in a controlled setting.

For public speaking anxiety in particular, the introduction of a realistic but “safe” scenario is more difficult to achieve. How do you bring together a room full of people to play the audience (let alone in a pandemic)? How do you expose people to different types of room set ups? Different size crowds? Different types of people?

In response to these challenges, a recent study looked at the effectiveness of guided exposure therapy in Virtual Reality (VR) to treat PSA. The study, which intentionally leveraged affordable hardware and psychologists only minimally trained in VR, concluded:

“VR exposure therapy can be effective under routine care conditions and is an attractive approach for future, large-scale implementation and effectiveness trials.” 

Among the studies finding were that patients’ self-reported a “robust” decrease in PSA following VR-assisted therapy and that the “exposure therapy exerted these benefits by reducing patients’ fear of negative evaluation and catastrophic beliefs.”

The study also found that “patients rated the quality of their speech performances higher after watching the avatar perform a playback of their speech.”

As the authors of the study point out, using VR to treat anxiety in general is not new.

“Dozens of high-quality trials since the early 2000’s support the efficacy of VR exposure therapy (VRET) for anxiety disorders (Carl et al., 2019; Fodor et al., 2018; Opriş et al., 2012), showing effect sizes similar to in-vivo exposure therapy (Wechsler et al., 2019) and that treatment effects generalize also to reduced fear of real-world equivalent phobic stimuli (Morina et al., 2015).” 

Using it to overcome fear of public speaking, however, seems to be particularly effective because it confronts one of the primary fears of public speaking – brain freeze. Ironically, the fear of being judged or negatively perceived by others can actually cause the exact outcome a speaker is trying to avoid.

“If your brain starts to freeze up, you get more stressed and the stress hormones go even higher. That shuts down the frontal lobe and disconnects it from the rest of the brain. It makes it even harder to retrieve those memories,” explains Dr. Michael DeGeorgia of Case Western University Hospitals in an article published by the National Social Anxiety Center.

Through the ability to repeatedly practice public speaking in front of convincing audiences of real or simulated people, VR provides a safe environment to reduce the stress and anxiety that leads to brain freezes. This in turn increases confidence which leads to less chance of a brain freeze, a virtuous cycle.

Foretell Reality works with partners to design therapeutic VR experiences that reduce stress and anxiety in different ways. One example is our work with Fordham University in which business students were placed in VR simulations with other students to practice presenting and pitching both to large crowds and to small groups of peers. Students donned VR headsets and entered environments replicating real world board rooms, auditoriums, and networking spaces.

For more information about Foretell Reality and our various partners and use cases, please visit our site or schedule a demo.

Therapy and Support

Podcast: VR Therapy Now and in the Future

Great conversation with A Fine Time for Healing podcast host Randi Fine this morning. We were joined by XRHealth‘s Dr. Orit Avni-Barron to discuss various applications of Virtual Reality (VR) for behavioral health. The hour flew by and we covered a lot of ground.

The podcast was broadcasted live and will be archived here as well as on Apple Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Stitcher, Podbean, Podbay, TuneIn, Player FM, Podchaser, Listen Notes, Castbox, Podfanatic, and Ivoox.

Therapy and Support

How VR can fight addiction through remote human connection.

A recent article in the New York Times highlights the particular challenges of addiction treatment during the pandemic. The article contends that, at its core, addiction is often fueled by feelings of isolation and disconnectedness and the inability for people to meet together and with clinicians and facilitators has lead many to relapse or worse.

How could Virtual Reality (VR) help? The article highlights several areas where the feeling of presence, focus, and connectedness afforded by VR could lessen the feeling of being alone and more closely represent the therapeutic benefits of in-person interactions.

A Shared Experience

Excerpt from NYT Article: “In the 80-year history since addiction treatment began, we’ve never experienced anything as challenging as this,” said Marvin Ventrell, chief executive of the N.A.A.T.P. “You have to put people in social settings to heal, and Covid conspires against that.”

VR replicates the feeling of being physically together with other people. Everyone in a VR environment sees the same thing as everyone else just as they would if they were sitting together in a shared space. If you and I look out the window to our left, we will see the same scene regardless of where we may be in the real world. This is in sharp contrast to video calls where participants are stacked together in boxes, each in their own world, with no common point of view or ability to truly share in the same experience; a situation that can actually lead to greater feelings of isolation.

Avatars that Emote

Excerpt from NYT Article: “What is more supportive than walking into a room and seeing a human you can touch?” asked one client, Maureen. “What’s been missing is body language, our ability to hug each other. All that stuff is important when people are going through the difficult experience of getting off drugs or alcohol.”

The feeling of proximity in VR is unlike any other digital medium. Lifelike avatars can gesture, point, fist bump, high five, and even hug resulting in sensory feedback (haptics) through the controller. Objects like balls can be passed between people sitting in natural relation to one another and spatial audio allows for more authentic conversation flow. Though VR is not an ultimate substitute for physical human interactions, it is as close as we have to that sensation and, with continuing improvements to avatar expressions, movements, and haptics, the line will only blur further between mind and virtual body.

Focused, Distraction-free

Excerpt from NYT Article: “Many of our clients were riddled with fear and anxiety,” said Rose Foley, who runs mental health services for a Hazelden Betty Ford center in Chelsea, Manhattan. “I remember working with clients and hearing the sounds of sirens from outside their apartments. It was a traumatic time.”

Group and one-on-one video sessions are prone to both technical and situational intrusions. For those seeking help, these distractions can be frustrating and can adversely affect the healing process as they break the sense of connection and togetherness. VR headsets are self-contained units that block out visual and auditory interference. Since everyone is using the same device, the experience is consistent among all participants which leads to a more focused sessions in environments designed to induce a sense of calmness and safety.

Accessibility Meets Control Over Identity

Excerpt from NYT Article: Some positives have come from virtual care. John Driscoll, head of recovery services at Hazelden Betty Ford, said the number of patients choosing to attend sessions biweekly has doubled. The organization’s recovery program for families, which used to be local, is now on video and open to families around the globe, serving more than 2,500 people since the summer.

If there is a sliver lining in the challenges of the last year, it is that access to and utilization of telebehavioral health has increased dramatically. While in-person treatment may still be ideal, the ease of joining remote sessions has reduced barriers and stigmas to those seeking help who otherwise might not have tried. Though not yet as omnipresent as smartphones and laptops, VR offers the same ability to connect with anyone around the globe but with the added advantage that those who wish to remain off camera or anonymous are not left feeling excluded. VR creates a level social playing field where identity is fully in the hands of the participant at any stage of the process. This allows people to explore treatments before committing and removes the self-consciousness that comes with appearing on camera throughout the treatment process.

Beyond Four Walls or a Screen

As the vaccine rollout gains traction and we are eventually able to return to our normal lives, there will still be a prominent role for VR in addiction treatment in the following capacities:

  • Remote Treatment: Even when the pandemic ends, there will be many people who seek remote treatment for a variety of reasons (affordability, accessibility, anonymity).
  • Ongoing support: Those who have left a treatment center can continue to meet with peers and with counselors in a familiar shared space.
  • New treatment models: Role play, withdrawal distraction, and exposure therapy both outside and within centers can offer alternatives to traditional treatments.

At Foretell Reality, we work with our partners to develop behavioral health applications that bring patients and clinicians together in VR environments for connection and healing. Both now and into the future, we see a tremendous opportunity to work with addiction treatment centers and facilitators to help those in need of connection and care.

Therapy and Support

Dr. Asher Marks Highlights Healing Benefits of VR in Peer Review Publication

“For patients with physical disabilities or social anxieties that prevent them from participating in support groups, VR provides the opportunity to connect with others and build strong social support networks.”

The above excerpt is from a recently published article under peer review in the Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology by our partner at Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Asher Marks. Dr. Marks.

In the article, Dr. Marks also discusses the benefits of VR for other areas of physical and behavioral health such as pain distraction, social interaction augmentation, and prolonged isolation.

“During situations requiring quarantine or isolation, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or bone marrow transplant, VR has been seen as a way to cope with the deleterious effects of prolonged isolation,” states Dr. Marks citing another recent study.

Foretell Reality has worked closely with Dr. Marks to develop VR support groups for adolescent cancer patients. This article marks another milestone in the advancement and adoption of the technology to make a real difference in areas of both mental and physical health.

Subscribers to the journal can read more here:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33296259/

Therapy and Support

Foretell Highlighted in BHB

“On top of improving retention, VR can help providers improve treatment itself. For example, Foretell Reality often sees more genuine responses from patients when using VR, according to Dror Goldberg, General Manager of Foretell Reality.”

Thanks to Bailey Bryant of Behavioral Health Business for including us in her piece about the potential of VR to “change the game” of behavioral health.

Read the article here.

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