Request a Demo
Posts by

Jonathan Collins

Home / Blog Archive
Virtual Reality (VR) Support Groups
Therapy and Support

XRHealth Highlights Benefits of Virtual Reality (VR) Support Groups

Our client, XRHealth, recently highlighted the value of anonymity and the ability to participate from the comfort of one’s own home during emotionally loaded support group therapy. XRHealth therapists not only moderate group conversation but they leverage the 3D avatar bodies and the shared environment to include physical exercise and stretches during sessions. 

“Traditionally, groups meet in person, but online and virtual support groups are becoming more popular and accessible due to technology, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Online and virtual meetings are particularly beneficial for those who are homebound, have social anxiety, live in a rural area, have hectic schedules, or prefer anonymity.”

Foretell Reality has developed an avatar-based, multi-participant virtual reality platform specifically designed for group therapy. At XRHealth, the ability for our patients and moderators to connect with each other through VR is powered by Foretell Reality”

Read more here and be sure to scroll down to watch the video.

virtual reality (VR) empathy
Therapy and Support

Virtual Reality (VR) offers perspective on what it is like to face sexual harassment

Virtual Reality (VR) is often touted as an ‘empathy machine’ for its ability to change pre-conceptions by providing a convincing experience from someone else’s point of view. Whether to combat racism or bullying or increase medical school students empathy toward patients, VR is increasingly being used as a tool to challenge biases and encourage compassion and understanding.  

There are various ways to design VR experiences that facilitate this type of introspection including role play with avatars, narrative storytelling, simulations, and 360 video. A recent study focused on the latter approach to determine whether a 360 video in VR taken from the point of view of a woman would increase empathy in men about what it is like to face sexual harassment.

The study, titled ‘The impact of 360 video in VR on How Does It Feel to Be a Woman Victim of Sexual Harassment? The Effect of 360°-Video-Based Virtual Reality on Empathy and Related Variables,’ recruited 44 men in Mexico City and had them experience two different conditions. In one condition, participants watched the 360 video in VR to experience what it is like to be a female victim of sexual harassment (SH) from a first-person perspective. In the other,  the same story was presented in text format and the participants had to imagine the content of the story as if it were happening to them. 

Among the findings were:

“A tendency (marginally significant) to experience higher empathy after the 360° video than after the narrative. Furthermore, we found a carryover effect of the 360°-video condition. That is, empathy after the narrative was significantly higher when the 360° video was presented before the narrative task rather than after it.”

“Regarding the sense of oneness and perspective taking, [participants] were significantly higher after the 360° video than after the narrative task. A carryover effect on perspective taking was also found because scores in the narrative condition were higher when the 360° video was presented before the narrative task than when it was presented after it.”

In summary, the researchers concluded: 

“Despite its limitations, this study raises new possibilities in the prevention and treatment of SH toward women. Empathy, perspective taking, and sense of oneness could be target therapeutic components in interventions designed to decrease SH behaviors through a VR tool that is affordable for clinicians.”

Among other features, the Foretell Reality Virtual Reality (VR) platform provides the ability for one or more people to experience 360 video and then meet together as anonymous avatars to discuss the experience. We welcome partners interested in leveraging this and other tools to overcome biases and increase empathy. Click here for a demo or to contact us.

virtual reality (VR) zoom fatigue
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.

virtual reality (VR) survey
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.

virtual reality (VR) holiday parties
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.

virtual reality (VR) public speaking
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.

virtual reality (VR) addiction treatment
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.

virtual reality (VR) virtual embodiment
Collaboration, Soft Skills, Therapy and Support

Virtual Embodiment In VR Raises Questions

In its simplest form, Virtual embodiment is the perception of sensory feedback related to a person’s virtual, non-physical body, also known as an avatar, and the effect it has on the particular person behind the avatar. Virtual embodiment comes as an offshoot of the study of embodiment cognition, which is the idea that the mind and body are in unison, with the two working in harmony. Embodiment cognition research shows how the aspects of a person’s body seem to generate built-in tendencies in how that person views the world around them. Those aspects include motor functions, height, number of limbs, handedness, and the body’s interactions with the environment.

Given we cannot control many factors like our height or handedness, the most common way we seek to control our identity in the physical world is through clothing, accessories, make-up, tattoos, piercing, hair styles, hair coloring and now, masks. We display these attributes to show our personal style and to provide non-verbal clues about our personalities.  If we want to be seen as diplomatic and professional, chances are we wear business attire and keep ourselves well groomed. If we want to be viewed as someone who is bold and anti-establishment, we may choose ripped clothing and cyan colored hair. We rely on these outward signals, whether consciously or not, to frame interactions with other people before any words are spoken.

As our bodies and minds become more integrated with virtual mediums, the same avenues of expression we have in the physical world are finding their way into the digital world. From the more basic Bitmojis on Snapchat to full-fledged 3-D avatars in a Virtual Reality simulation, we continue to seek ways to express and represent ourselves in order to provide non-verbal clues as to who we are underneath.  The difference with virtual embodiment, however, is that the only limitations to creating an outward identity is the level of customization afforded by a particular platform. Skin color, gender, height, facial features, number of limbs – all potentially alterable within minutes. Staying within our own species is not even a requirement in some cases.

No where is virtual embodiment taking on more meaning than in Virtual Reality (VR) where interactions between avatars are convincingly lifelike and the range of customization options is broader than any other digital medium. Take entertainment-based social environments like Rec Room, AltSpace or Facebook’s Horizon. Many people in these worlds engage and interact purely through virtual identities without ever knowing what someone looks like in real life.

While this level of anonymity and freedom of identity is fine in that context, those same attributes do not necessarily lend themselves to a business or professional environment. With VR being used more and more for corporate collaboration, mental and physical healthcare, and training and education, the role of the avatar brings up more nuanced questions around virtual embodiment that need to be thought through. 

For example, in the case of a pitch meeting held in VR, is there a responsibility for both parties to represent themselves as close to who they are in the real world as possible? Since pitching is partially about the person or people behind the product or service, an argument can be made that they should not appear younger, a different ethnicity, or a different gender than they are in real life. Or maybe that actually shouldn’t matter at all and non-realistic should be encouraged in order to weed out implicit bias in the process.

Therapy sessions also produce an interesting use case. It may be that the therapist should adhere closely to his or her real world identity whereas the patient may benefit from a virtual embodiment that they feel expresses themselves better. The very act of customizing one’s virtual appearance to better represent how one would like to be seen can be a part of the therapeutic process itself. Or maybe there is a benefit in the therapist playing a particular role or roles throughout the therapeutic process in order to elicit responses from the patient.

Foretell Reality recognizes the importance of virtual embodiment, particularly in professional settings. Through our work with partners like Yale School of Medicine, Fordham University, and XRHealth, we see firsthand the importance and promise of virtual embodiment in VR to redefine digital identity as a whole.  Toward that end, we recently expanded our avatar selection tool to include many more customization options.

1 2 3 5 6
Recent Comments
    About Exponent

    Exponent is a modern business theme, that lets you build stunning high performance websites using a fully visual interface. Start with any of the demos below or build one on your own.

    Get Started
    Subscribe Now
    Privacy Settings
    We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
    Youtube
    Consent to display content from Youtube
    Vimeo
    Consent to display content from Vimeo
    Google Maps
    Consent to display content from Google
    Spotify
    Consent to display content from Spotify
    Sound Cloud
    Consent to display content from Sound
    Contact Us