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VR for Mental and Physical Health During Lockdown
Mindfullness, Therapy and Support

Impact of VR on Mental/Physical Health During Lockdown

The recent pandemic has drastically changed nearly all aspects of our lives. Stay at home orders are causing people to feel confined and anxious and the closure of gyms, parks, and community centers have forced millions to suddenly adopt a sedentary lifestyle. The WHO recognizes the pandemic as posing a significant threat to global mental health, stating that quarantine and self-isolation can lead to negative feelings such as “stress, depression, irritability, insomnia, fear, confusion, frustration, and boredom”.

Many studies have shown the efficacy of Virtual Reality (VR) for helping people manage stress, anxieties, and depression. VR has also been shown to promote physical well-being. Physical movements exerted through virtual reality games like Beat Saber can greatly increase heart rate and burn hundreds of calories in a single session. 

Now a study conducted by Alessandro Siani and Sarah Anne Marley, two leading faculty members at the University of Portsmouth’s School of Biological Sciences, has aimed “to evaluate the effectiveness of VR as a physical and mental health aid for people observing social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Here are some highlights of the study which consisted of surveys submitted by 646 participants from around the world:

  • Over 75% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that their use of VR increased during the pandemic.
  • Over 60% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that VR was a good way to keep fit during lockdown
  • Close to 80% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that VR has a positive impact on their mental health during lockdown

In conclusion, the researchers stated: “The majority of the population surveyed in this study, regardless of their gender and age, reported that their VR use has increased during the lockdown, and expressed overwhelmingly positive opinions on the usefulness of VR as a way to keep busy and improve their mental and physical wellbeing.” 

The Foretell Reality platform offers features and environments for support groups, 1:1 and group therapy, and guided stress and anxiety relief.  

Therapy and Support

DoD Leveraging VR to help prevent Air Force suicides

With suicides in the military up more than 20% this year from 2019, the United States Department of Defense recently announced the use of a VR training program designed to help prevent suicide among Air Force veterans. The program features a 30-minute VR training scenario in which participants must convince an airman to seek mental health support during a period of emotional distress. 

Participants must ask the airman, who is powered by artificial intelligence (AI), a series of prewritten questions. Those who struggle to effectively ask these questions will receive assistance from a qualified mental health professional. The coaching is intended to help both veterans and their spouses better understand what questions to ask, how to properly respond, and why one should ask these questions.

“The unique part of this VR training is that it’s voice-activated, so you’re required to say things out loud that maybe you’ve never had to say before,” explained Master Sgt. Shawn Dougherty, a VR facilitator at Travis Air Force Base, which is one of the locations utilizing VR suicide prevention training. 

Virtual reality provides a unique opportunity for individuals to confront challenging interpersonal situations through realistic simulations. In the instance above, this is accomplished through the use of an AI ‘bot’ but the same types of simulations can also take place with other real people. 

Foretell Reality is a social Virtual Reality (VR) platform for support groups, group therapy, guided exposure therapy, and other therapeutic practices like role playing and mindfulness training.

Foretell Reality’s social capabilities can be particularly effective in addressing various behavioral health issues when combined with programs originally designed for single individuals. In the example above, veterans and their spouses could join support groups in VR after navigating the solo training in order to talk about their experiences. Further, the AI bot in the simulation could actually be replaced by another real person which could allow for more unscripted and exploratory treatment options. 

Interested in learning more about social VR for behavioral health? Schedule a demo.

Lifestyle, Other, Travel

Discovering Diversion, Connection, and Wellbeing inside VR

In light of the recent pandemic, stay at home orders are causing people to feel confined, isolated, and anxious. For WIRED’s Chelsea Leah, VR (Virtual Reality) became an unexpected tool for staying active and relieving stress during this period. Through meditation, exploration, socializing, and movement, she describes how she overcame her initial skepticism to make VR part of her regular routine. Here are some of the applications she discovered:

Meditation: Reef migration, as the name suggests, is an underwater VR environment in which one can explore a coral reef and interact with marine life. 

The graphics are wonderful, the sounds are peaceful, and there’s enough passive action to keep my brain entertained. The best part? I’m not wet or cold, and I don’t need to go up for air”

Exploration: Google’s VR version of Google Earth allows anyone who may feel homesick to revisit places from their childhood through their VR headsets. 

“Simply being able to see these places in VR helped me cope with the nostalgia and longing to go somewhere”.

Socializing: Rec Room is a social space where people from all over the world can play games and do other activities together.

“I recognize the subtle head and arm movements of my individual friends, making it feel as though we truly are in the same room together.” 

Movement: Beat Saber challenges players to physically slash through rapidly approaching music blocks with a virtual lightsaber. 

anything that mixes pop music with light sabers is destined for success.”

The Foretell Reality platform leverages the strengths of VR for professional use cases including tools and environments for therapy and support, soft skills training, and business collaboration. 

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