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Pia Behmuaras

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VR for Spatial Navigation Training

Capacities of VR

Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated technology that creates immersive and interactive experiences transcending physical boundaries. Currently used by clinicians and therapists alike, VR can assist many types of physical and mental rehabilitation programs. This includes the clinical assessment, training, and feedback on performance for spatial navigation challenges.

VR helps scientists measure the strategies different age groups and primate species use for navigation. In evolutionary psychology, it is used to test spatial cognitive abilities such as learning, memory, and spatial navigation. Studies examine navigation through mazes and environments with various 3D and 2D landmarks and sometimes track neural activity.

Researchers use VR in one of the most challenging areas in neuroscience: the investigation of cortical mechanisms. It is technically challenging to perform neurophysiological recordings on people who move freely and navigate various scenarios throughout the day. So, VR offers control over landmarks, distractions, and spaces to assess attention and behavior.

Treatment and Rehabilitation

A study shows that VR can help neurologically assess and rehabilitate conditions such as spatial disorientation. Spatial disorientation is a severe case of difficulty navigating all types of environments, new or routine, commonly caused by brain damage. A verbally-guided VR-based navigation training program improved route finding for 11 participants with spatial disorientation.

VR training could also help treat landmark agnosia, a condition where patients cannot locate landmarks in the real world, impairing their navigation. Trials were even successful with more common conditions such as amnesia. These simulations have shown to have ecological validity, as virtual representations of real-life environments have successfully trained individuals to navigate real-life environments.

One key benefit to spatial navigation training is protecting the hippocampus against age-related changes during early and late adulthood. With VR, training can be done from anywhere in the world and with fewer physical barriers to accessibility. Since there are over 171 million VR users worldwide, implementing spatial navigation training in VR games could also achieve widespread preventative success.

Foretell Reality

Foretell Reality is an inclusive social VR platform where up to 15 active users can meet for live therapy and support groups. In the app, users can walk or teleport around open spaces, exploring private and public environments. Some spaces also provide navigation simulations such as mazes that allow for real-time spatial navigation training with professionals.

References:

Virtual reality in neurologic rehabilitation of spatial disorientation – PMC (nih.gov)

VR Training with Spatial Knowledge and Navigation (1library.net)

Spatial navigation training protects the hippocampus against age-related changes during early and late adulthood – ScienceDirect

Virtual reality in neurologic rehabilitation of spatial disorientation – PMC (nih.gov)

Landmark Agnosia: Evaluating the Definition of Landmark-based Navigation Impairment | Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

Landmark Agnosia: Evaluating the Definition of Landmark-based Navigation Impairment | Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

The Hippocampus in the Limbic System (thoughtco.com)

23 Amazing Virtual Reality Statistics [2022]: The Future Of VR + AR – Zippia

experiencing awe in VR
VR-Related

The Therapeutic Power of Awe in VR

Awe In VR

Virtual reality offers a powerful, novel method by which awe can be experienced in almost any setting. Creating an authentic sense of presence among vast and complex stimuli, VR is reported to be awe-inspiring by users alike, from first-timers to VR fans who regularly play VR games, socialize, or do business in VR. While research identifies that awe is one of the most powerful emotions we feel, its current therapeutic utility is limited by the practical problem of bringing awe-inspiring environments into therapy settings.

VR, however, has the capacity to bring us into vast and immersive environments within seconds. It can therefore reactivate the transformative utility of awe by presenting carefully crafted 3D environments and lifelike social simulations. Awe is a reaction to stimuli characterized by two features: perceptual vastness, and the need for cognitive accommodation. In other words, awe tends to be evoked by stimuli that are large, either physically, or by their cognitive implication, and which challenge one’s existing understanding of the world. It is an emotion that we feel when we see a breathtaking landscape or listen to rich and moving music.

The Therapeutic Power of Awe

The psychological effects of awe have important implications for promoting well-being, including dampening the body’s stress responses, and drastically changing how people process information. After experiencing awe, people have a more communal sense of self and adopt more inclusive values. Likewise, experiences of awe increase openness to experience, reduce the need for cognitive closure and reportedly challenge one’s worldview. So, when multiple people are experiencing awe together, the foundations for community, care, and compassion are laid out immediately.

Inducing awe during therapy sessions in VR could also help people open up and be more comfortable, shifting their preconceived notions about therapy when there is resistance to treatment or healing. VR therapy has the power to change what we see, and the emotional and cognitive state that we find ourselves in. However, unlike any other therapy, it offers clients and therapists much more immersion and control. It can therefore be used as a therapeutic tool for psychological intervention at home, in workplaces, and in clinical settings within sessions starting from a mere 3 minutes.

Foretell Reality

Foretell Reality leverages the power of virtual reality to create environments and experiences that induce intimacy, and a shared sense of awe. From sitting around a campfire and playing the guitar, to watching the rain fall and drinking hot cocoa in a cozy room, users can meet in different settings and discuss matters that are close to their hearts. But it does not stop there, you can travel across the world, see 360 videos of places you have never been, and interact with the virtual world in a creative and collaborative way.

To read more about awe in VR and see experimental results, click here.

References:

ASU News. (2019, January 3). Research that takes your breath away: The impact of awe. ASU 

News. Retrieved November 25, 2021, from https://news.asu.edu/20190103-research-takes-yourbreath-away-impact-awe.

Bai, Y., Maruskin, L. A., Chen, S., Gordon, A. M., Stellar, J. E., McNeil, G. D., … & Keltner, D. 

(2017). Awe, the diminished self, and collective engagement: Universals and cultural variations 

in the small self. Journal of personality and social psychology, 113, 185.

Campos, B., Shiota, M. N., Keltner, D., Gonzaga, G. C., & Goetz, J. L. (2013). What is shared, 

what is different? Core relational themes and expressive displays of eight positive 

emotions. Cognition & emotion, 27(1), 37-52.

Chirico, A., Yaden, D. B., Riva, G., & Gaggioli, A. (2016). The potential of virtual reality for the 

investigation of awe. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. 

https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01766

Keltner, D., & Haidt, J. (2003). Approaching awe, a moral, spiritual, and aesthetic emotion. 

Cognition and Emotion, 17, 297–314. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699930302297 

Lindner, P. (2020). Better, virtually: The past, present, and future of Virtual Reality Cognitive 

Behavior therapy. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, 14, 23–46. 

https://doi.org/10.1007/s41811-020-00090-714

Shiota, M. N., Keltner, D., & Mossman, A. (2007). The nature of awe: Elicitors, appraisals, and 

effects on self-concept. Cognition and Emotion, 21, 944–963. 

https://doi.org/10.1080/02699930600923668

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