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VR Allows Refugees to Return Home After Decades
Therapy and Support

VR Allows Refugees to Return Home After Decades

One of the powers of VR is its ability to evoke powerful visceral feelings by transporting people to real or imagined places at any point in time. Unlike a flat screen, the viewer is enveloped in a living 360 scene with sounds and action occurring all around them.

There can be many different uses for leveraging this powerful medium (education, mental health, both hard and soft skill training), but a recent BBC story highlights one that shows the true breadth of how the technology can be leveraged.

The story centers on Project Dastaan, an endeavor co-founded by the grandson of one of the many migrants that was displaced during the violent partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. Many families fled for their lives and have never returned to the places they left.

“But now, they can revisit those very places – the houses they left behind, the schools they dropped out of and even the people they thought the would never see again,” according to the projects founders.

Seeing the reaction of the refugees as the take in their VR surroundings shows the true power of the medium. “It was great, it was wonderful. I was feeling as if I had gone back to my childhood,” says one man.

Personalizing the 360 video experience in VR in ways that evoke a sense of presence is a powerful tool that has many use cases. Video of a childhood home, a particular room, a place someone used to visit, a walk someone used to take – these can all be brought back for the purposes of comforting, healing, and remembering.

The Foretell Reality VR platform offers a variety of capabilities and features including 360 video for one or more simultaneous viewers. Click here to schedule a demo.

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
Collaboration

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
VR-Related

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

Study: 3d versus 2d Video for retention and engagement
Soft Skills

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
VR-Related

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.

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