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VR Meditation
Mindfulness, Therapy and Support, VR-Related

VR for Overcoming the Challenges of Meditating

We all know that meditation is good for you. With roots in spiritual and secular traditions stretching back thousands of years, meditation is a time-tested way to reduce stress and enhance mental and physical well-being. Tradition has been backed by testing in recent years, as the health benefits of meditation have been substantiated by the scientific community. Studies have shown that meditation’s ability to regulate emotional intensity mitigates both emotional distress and physical pain, and can even remedy physical ailments like high blood pressure. For these reasons and more, meditation has tripled in popularity over the past decade, with no signs of slowing down. 

There is an inherent paradox with meditation, however. The common reasons to meditate–overthinking, stress, anxiety–also present a real challenge to meditating in the first place. Meditation aims to achieve a clear mind, but when effective meditation hinges on clearing the mind to begin with, it’s hard to know where to start. With our attention span collectively narrowing and a bevy of distractions constantly available to us, not to mention a global pandemic weighing on us all, meditation is at once more necessary and more difficult than ever. 

Meditation in Virtual Reality (VR) addresses these obstacles on the road to mindfulness, even offering several advantages to traditional meditation. Let’s start with distractions: the all-encompassing nature of a VR headset, enveloping our senses in 360 degrees of sight and sound, eliminates some of the self-discipline required by traditional meditation. No longer do you need to practice monastic self-restraint inches away from your phone or computer, as a VR headset is just as engaging and entertaining as your devices, but ultimately works toward a productive end. The visual and auditory sensations of VR immerse participants in their meditation, allowing them to focus solely on mindfulness to an extent that’s challenging even for experienced meditators. Paired with auxiliary activities like breathing exercises, VR makes meditation more accessible for newcomers than ever before.

Guided group meditation has traditionally helped newer practitioners get into the groove of meditation, as the group setting offers several advantages to going it alone. Group accountability, relatability, and consistency are key advantages to practicing mindfulness as a group. It’s difficult, however, to effectively conduct group meditation over Zoom or even in-person, and VR not only makes group meditation possible but actually augments several advantages of group meditation. Anonymized avatars provide a level of comfort for those with social anxiety, allowing them to participate in group meditation without presenting additional stress. Even in group settings, users can individualize their meditation session to fit their personal preferences, benefitting from the social aspect of group meditation without compromising their own meditation experience. 

Beyond accommodating personal preferences, customizability allows for regular meditation despite daily variations in mood and mindset. Say you want to meditate, but you’re feeling particularly fidgety or restless today. Instead of sitting still atop a vista, you can opt for a more active meditation session interacting with butterflies in a field or sea life on the ocean floor. If you’re feeling particularly anxious and want to meditate in a familiar, comforting environment, you can spend your time in the Dunder Mifflin office or Rick and Morty’s garage. Moreover, VR integration with biofeedback allows users to better understand how meditation affects them and modify their sessions accordingly. The range of environments and activities available, as well as on-the-fly adjustments made according to biofeedback results, can tailor meditation sessions for a given day, ensuring that you never miss out on the benefits of mindfulness.

The control that customizable VR meditation offers can itself be a source of comfort. Especially during the pandemic, when many felt a lack of agency in their daily lives, the ability to design your own space for rest and relaxation can do wonders for one’s mental health. The variety of environments, many of them real-life travel destinations, addresses the stir craziness many felt from stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions. Not to mention, the socialization potential for group meditation in VR allows users to feel connected and present with one another when physically shared spaces may not always be an option. 

Foretell Reality is a social VR platform for mental health and wellbeing that supports both group and individual mindfulness practice among other activities including group therapy and peer support. To learn more or schedule a demo, please visit our website..

Foretell Reality Social VR Platform
Soft Skills, Therapy and Support, VR-Related

The Metaverse Needs Safe Spaces

I think we’ve all heard by now that Facebook has rebranded itself to “Meta.” What many of us have failed to realize, though, is the widespread implications of that. According to Mark Zuckerberg, society will use the metaverse to connect with family and friends, create their own homes, and invite people into it. Zuckerberg believes this will create “the feeling of presence: the defining quality of the metaverse.” Social VR is extremely valuable in this aspect – it’s a fun and exciting way to connect with people, especially in situations where you may be geographically too far to meet with someone in real life. You also have the ability to safely do activities that you may not be able to do in real life, such as extreme mountain biking, skydiving, off-roading, racing, or taking part in shooting games. However, with an increase in life-like realities, comes the ever-so-present threat of harassment. 

Just days after Meta released their platform “Horizon Worlds” to the public, many women came forward about their experiences with sexual harassment. In a recent Bloomberg article, a woman described that she didn’t necessarily feel unsafe, but “was uncomfortable, and there were no clear rules about etiquette and personal space.” Her entire experience seemed to be tainted by the imminent presence of griefers: people who disrupt others just to annoy them. Although there are numerous moderators to protect users from this behavior as well as harassment, it is a considerably difficult task to process a spoken language, visible gestures, and body language, rather than simply scanning a text online. 

In an effort to combat this, Meta offers a “Safe Zone”, but many users have not been informed of this feature, and thus do not have the ability to block their perpetrators.  Zuckerberg’s promise that “privacy and safety will be built into the metaverse from day one” seems to be falling short due to a lack of investment in user education. This isn’t a new problem by any means, though. According to the MIT Technology Review, this began as early as 2016 when a woman was harassed in a VR zombie game. She recalls, “There I was, being virtually groped in a snowy fortress with my brother-in-law and husband watching.” It may not seem like a big deal, but a recent beta tester of Horizon Worlds disagrees: “Sexual harassment is no joke on the regular internet, but being in VR adds another layer that makes the event more intense.” Researchers of online harassment assert that the fully immersive aspect of 3D environments “tricks the user into thinking they are physically in a certain space, that their every bodily action is occurring in a 3D environment,” which is why “VR triggers the same internal nervous system and psychological responses.”

So how does a platform that was built on the foundation of inclusivity and an ability to meet people of all different backgrounds can become a threatening place, full of discomfort for some? The common denominator between all of these incidents is unrestricted environments and an abuse of anonymity.

The good news is that the metaverse is larger than one company and the applications for VR for positive social interactions are game changing. Foretell Reality is a social VR platform that provides safe spaces for therapy and support, soft skills development, and other interpersonal activities like real time collaboration and live simulations. Please visit our website for more information or to schedule a demo.

Soft Skills, VR-Related

Addressing Barriers to Role Play through Virtual Reality

What is role play?

Role play is a commonly used training technique in which participants simulate real world scenarios in order to improve soft skills such as negotiation, problem solving, teamwork, conflict resolution, and active listening.

How does it work?

By practicing scenarios over and over again in a safe environment with peers and under the guidance of professional coaches or educators, participants become better prepared to deal with the same situations when they occur in the real world.

What professions can benefit from role play?

Any profession that includes interactions with clients, colleagues, customers, or those receiving care can benefit from role play. Some examples include:

Career Development: Many companies still require in-person interviews which means sitting across the table from as many as half a dozen different interviewees over a period of hours. Honing interviewing skills by practicing with peers improves confidence and self pitching.

Corporate Consulting: Presenting and active listening are two skills essential in effective consulting engagements. Gaining feedback from colleagues playing the role of clients can identify areas that need improvement before stepping foot inside a customer’s offices.

Professional Coaching: Professional coaches work with clients to help them achieve certain goals in their business and personal lives. Practicing interpersonal skills through role play in safe guided environments is a teaching method commonly used by coaches as they work with their clients to confront real world challenges.

Sales: Sales is all about relationships and connections. Gaining the trust of potential clients requires strong communication skills, active listening, emotional intelligence and ultimately negotiation skills. Role play is a powerful tool to practice those skills before getting in front of both new and existing customers.

Social Work: Social workers are placed in uncertain situations all the time. Conflict resolution, problem solving, and strong communication skills can mean the difference between escalation and resolution.

Customer Service: With retailers struggling to get customers to physically shop in their stores, every touch point with an employee is critical in keeping them coming back. Role playing various scenarios from complaints to unusual requests to product questions will improve the customer experience by providing employees to skills they need to resolve most issues.

Law Enforcement – Though physical confrontation with assailants is often portrayed in movies and in the news as central to an officers duties, soft skills such as conflict resolution, active listening, negotiation, and empathy are far more important to de-escalation and better community relations than handcuffs or batons. Experiencing different points of view through role play (e.g. the assailant’s) is one way of arming officers with the soft skills they need to resolve real world conflicts.

What are the barriers to role play?

Given that role play is an effective training tool, what deters broader use of the training technique? For the most part, the issues can be boiled down to three things:

  1. It is logistically difficult and expensive to get everyone together in the same location.
  2. People do not feel comfortable pretending to act or look like someone else.
  3. It is challenging to imagine that an environment looks different than the one you are in.

How can Virtual Reality (VR) address these barriers?

Virtual reality is a technology that is uniquely suited to address each of the barriers above.

  1. Role play participants can attend sessions in a shared 3D environment wherever they may be in the world. No need for a physical space or to travel to a specific location.
  2. Avatars allow role players to embody different personas without needing to pretend or imagine. This allows for more open dialogue and less self-consciousness during sessions.
  3. Realistically rendered environments can replicate anything from a board room to a living room. All participants see the same space and can even interact with 3D objects within it.

According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 89 percent of recruiters say when a hire doesn’t work out, it usually comes down to a lack of soft skills. And a Deloitte study from a few years back reported that “soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030.”

As we move to a world where emotional intelligence is an essential job requirement, VR offers a technology that can bring one of the most effective soft skills training techniques, role play, directly to anyone with a $300 headset.

Foretell Reality is a social (VR) platform for soft skills training, therapy and support, and real time collaboration.

virtual reality (VR) survey
VR-Related

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

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) support groups
Therapy and Support, VR-Related

Mayo Clinic Guide to Support Groups

This recent article from the Mayo Clinic is a great resource for those considering joining a support group. It provides succinct information including benefits, risks, questions to ask, and the pros and cons of online versus in-person sessions.

Through our secure platform, Foretell Reality brings a higher degree of focus, presence, and anonymity to online support groups through Virtual Reality (VR) environments designed to foster meaningful therapeutic connections.

One example is our partner XRHealth who is bringing patients together with similar ailments in moderated VR support groups to discuss their experiences, treatments, and challenges.

With more people feeling isolated and alone, support groups can provide comfort and connections that improve mood and as sense of purpose and belonging.

Foretell Reality is an enterprise VR solution for interpersonal communication and business collaboration. Learn more here.

virtual reality (VR) live events
VR-Related

Limitless: Live Events in VR

In 2019, live events ranging from conferences to concerts to sporting events generated tens of billions of dollars in ticket revenue. With recent losses exceeding 90%, the live events industry must answer two critical questions. How do you put on a live event without any attendees and how do you generate revenue without ticket sales?

In the tech industry, where direct losses exceed $1 billion alone, live conferences provide a forum for learning, networking, promotion, and collaboration but that is all predicated on everyone being in the same physical space at the same time. So how can event holders recreate the feeling and function of being at a live event safely and without the need to travel?

Virtual Reality (VR) offers the closest experience to being in person of any technology or medium. Many organizations have been embracing VR for live entertainment for years. The NBA streamed it’s first live game in VR back in 2015 and Oculus Venues streamed its first live concert back in 2018. More recent examples include the largest VR music and arts festival, Lost Horizon, which is set to take place this summer with over 50 performers and 4 stages.

Though the entertainment industry may have been the first group to embrace VR for live events, recent circumstances have forced all live event promoters to strongly consider VR in lieu of in person gatherings. HTC and the IEEE both held VR-only conferences this year and while technology companies may currently be leading this trend, other industries are soon to follow as the pandemic continues and travel budgets are cut.

While the move toward conferences and other live events in VR is positive for the health of attendees, the environment, and the organizers bottom line, it also presents a unique opportunity to revisit the live event experience from the ground up.

While VR can replicate being in familiar venues such as arenas, presentation halls, or trade floors, it can also bring attendees into fantastical environments to participate in new types of interactions and experiences not possible in the real world. We don’t need stadiums or conference centers to hold a virtual audience. We are in new uncharted territory with limitless possibilities. Performers and speakers can be on top of clouds, in the International Space Station, or appear larger than life in front of 12 million fans. Presenters can take an audience on a curated, immersive journey of their product or service and those in attendance can take on any form or appearance.

As evidence of the move toward VR for live events, tech giant Apple recently purchased NextVR, a platform known for producing immersive experiences in sports, music, and entertainment. Apple hopes to incorporate the platform into its music streaming subscription service and its growing video streaming platform, offering subscribers the option to attend concerts or live events virtually. Forget the streaming wars that seem to be all the focus lately, the new frontier is VR for live events.

virtual reality (VR) therapy and support
VR-Related

Foretell Reality for Therapy and Support

Barriers to In-Person Care

Support groups as well as individual and group therapy can help improve mood and emotional well being. The conversation between a therapist and a patient, or between patients, allows a forum to explore and communicate feelings and experiences openly, get perspective on one’s situation, and receive advice and support.

Unfortunately, barriers exist for those seeking in-person mental and emotional help. To begin with, finding and committing to a therapist or group can be a daunting task. It is time consuming to travel around ‘trying out’ different alternatives. Moreover, exposing oneself to others, especially when distressed, can also be anxiety producing due to the fear of others’ judgment. It takes time, trial and error to find the right forum and therapy methods. Let alone, get used to new ways of sharing one’s deepest emotions and concerns.

When a good fit is found, regular travel to an office or meeting room can be equally time consuming, expensive, and challenging, particularly for those with social anxieties or physical impairments. This is especially true in rural areas where access to trained counselors and support groups is limited.

The current pandemic highlights another challenge to seeking mental support, the fear of contracting an illness when in a social setting. For many this is a new fear, but for others it existed prior to COVID-19. For example, cancer patients risk their health every time they return to the hospital or another shared space for a support group session as do many others with a range of ailments that compromise their immune systems.

It appears that though in-person therapy and support can offer substantial mental benefits through greater connection, direction and engagement, it is simply not possible or preferable for many people seeking help.

Rise Of Telemental Health

Not surprising, there has been a huge increase in the adoption of virtual therapy administered through mobile applications and websites. Telemental health visits are on pace to top 80 million by 2021 in the United States, up from 50 million in 2019.

And it appears that remote therapy works successfully for many people. A study by the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health has found telehealth to facilitate positive health outcomes on par with, and in some cases exceeding, in person sessions. “Telehealth services resulted in lowered depression, better overall mental health, increased satisfaction with mental health care and coping skills, and increased confidence in handling depression,” the study concludes.

While the ability to seek help remotely is a positive advancement, the technology to facilitate both individual and group sessions lacks the level of immersiveness, engagement, and focus of an in-person experience.

Video, chat, or audio communication cannot replicate the feeling of two or more people being in a shared place at the same time. This is particularly important for group therapy and support where the natural flow of conversation is fundamental to treatment. Video calls and audio bridges simply cannot recreate the dynamics of a group conversation and can instead lead to stilted and disjointed interactions or, worse still, misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Body language, social cues, gestures, and gaze are all limited or impossible on flat screens while anonymity comes at the expense of full participation and equal standing with other participants.

Moreover, sessions held over phones or computers are prone to distraction from outside sources, uneven audio or video quality, and self-consciousness over physical appearance on screen.

While the move toward virtual therapy and support is a positive one, opening access and opportunity for those who need it, the technology underlying the treatment experience needs to evolve into something much more immersive.

Virtual Reality (VR): The Evolution of Remote Communication

“We’ve shifted from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, and now we’re transitioning to the Experience Age.” says Tico Ballagas, senior manager, AI and Emerging Compute Lab, HP Labs. “VR has this ability to conjure experiences at any moment for anybody, and that creates a new way that we as a human race can interact.”

Foretell Reality, a VR platform for therapy and support, addresses the shortcomings of video, chat, and audio, by immersing participants and therapists into shared, 3D environments.

Through a fully customizable and anonymized avatar, a patient feels safe to share their feelings without the concern of judgement due to her or his appearance. Patients and therapists can gesture in any direction, direct his or her gaze around a room, pick up on others social cues, and even move around within the space or interact with and share objects.

Most importantly, everyone in the environment sees and hears the same thing but from his or her own perspective, just as if they were in the same room. This creates a feeling of presence and of having a shared experience with others versus a video call where everyone is in a different physical location.

Using a VR headset, sessions are much less prone to distraction from outside sources or from messages flashing across a phone or laptop screen. Also, there is no need to be self-conscious about appearance as identity is shielded behind a customizable virtual avatar. This is important as remaining anonymous, helps lower levels of anxiety and depression present in patients and leads to more open and meaningful discussions between participants and therapists.

VR even extends what is possible in the real world by allowing for immersion into any setting and in any form with anyone in the world. Whether that setting promotes group mindfulness or replicates potentially painful past experiences, these events can be shared with a professional or with a group for real therapeutic outcomes.

VR Support Groups: Yale School of Medicine and XRHealth

Foretell Reality has partnered with Yale School of Medicine to develop effective and convenient solutions for adolescent cancer patients to participate in group therapy without having to travel to and from the hospital. Travel is not only inconvenient and expensive, it can lead to a risk of infection and can be physically and emotionally taxing on the patient.

Participants range from aged 13 to 30 years and all are either actively in treatment or had received treatment within the last year. The groups, comprised mainly of young adults, are given measurements to gauge levels of anxiety, depression, and resilience in order to see how VR group sessions compare to more conventional methods of group therapy.

Initial findings are promising and indicate that group therapy in VR can reduce anxiety and depression in ways other platforms cannot. Dr. Asher Marks, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Hematology/Oncology) and Director of Pediatric Neuro-Oncology, who is leading the initiative, states that “the VR technology offered by Foretell Reality allows users to jointly partake as avatars in a shared experience which cannot be replicated over conference call or video chat.”

XRHealth, a VR telehealth company, is also leveraging Foretell Reality to power support groups for patients who are being treated for similar conditions. Patients are first evaluated by a clinician and then sent a VR headset pre-loaded with a personalized treatment program. Once in treatment, a patient can then attend scheduled support group sessions with other participants who share similar ailments.

Foretell Reality for VR Therapy and Support

Foretell Reality is a secure and customizable solution that offers immersive, engaging, and distraction-free virtual telemental health sessions for both groups and individuals.

Our application runs on a variety of affordable headsets including Oculus Quest, Pico, and HTC Focus Plus and our solution can be integrated into existing telehealth platforms in order to extend treatment into VR.

The demand for virtual mental health care is growing rapidly and technology to improve the experience needs to follow. Foretell Reality makes remote feel near for those seeking help and support in a way that video, audio, and chat cannot.

Interested in learning more about Foretell Reality? Contact us or schedule a demo.

virtual reality (VR) job fair
VR-Related

Rethinking the Virtual Job Fair

In times of economic uncertainty and large scale unemployment, job fairs provide an opportunity for large numbers of job seekers to identify employers who are hiring in one convenient location. Given recent circumstances, we are now seeing a rise in virtual job fairs, aiming to connect job seekers with prospective employers purely online. Virtual job fairs can take different forms ranging from a simple list of employers websites to live video presentations to scheduled one on one sessions.

While virtual job fairs serve a necessary purpose, they lack the hustle and bustle of an in-person event in which employers and job seekers can meet face-to-face for interviews, informative sessions, and assessments. Casual networking is particularly challenging given the limitations of current online tools like video and chat. Not surprisingly, attendees often describe the virtual job fair experience as frustrating and disjointed.

Virtual Reality (VR) presents an opportunity not only to improve the virtual job fair experience but also to redesign it from the ground up. Why meet in a conference hall behind a booth or table when employers can showcase a fully immersive version of their office as a way to highlight their company’s culture? Why just share a job description when you can have prospective employees engage with a simulation of the actual job? Why attempt to network across a video screen when VR provides an experience where dozens of people can connect with one another in an open, 3D environment? VR opens the door for creativity when it comes to recruitment and also provides job seekers unexpected benefits like anonymity if desired.

As with other applications, VR provides the closest experience to meeting in person of any technology available. Personalized avatars allow for subtle, nonverbal communication like gestures, directional gazing, and movements within 3D space. These types of interactions in a distraction-free, focused environment allow applicants and employers to conduct meaningful interviews and informative sessions in a way that closest replicates a real job fair.

Like other live events, VR presents an opportunity to explore new paradigms for remote events where the technology can not only replicate but push beyond the experience as it is today.

virtual reality (VR) job fair
VR-Related

Rethinking the Virtual Job Fair

In times of economic uncertainty and large scale unemployment, job fairs provide an opportunity for large numbers of job seekers to identify employers who are hiring in one convenient location. Given recent circumstances, we are now seeing a rise in virtual job fairs, aiming to connect job seekers with prospective employers purely online. Virtual job fairs can take different forms ranging from a simple list of employers websites to live video presentations to scheduled one on one sessions.

While virtual job fairs serve a necessary purpose, they lack the hustle and bustle of an in-person event in which employers and job seekers can meet face-to-face for interviews, informative sessions, and assessments. Casual networking is particularly challenging given the limitations of current online tools like video and chat. Not surprisingly, attendees often describe the virtual job fair experience as frustrating and disjointed.

Virtual Reality (VR) presents an opportunity not only to improve the virtual job fair experience but also to redesign it from the ground up. Why meet in a conference hall behind a booth or table when employers can showcase a fully immersive version of their office as a way to highlight their company’s culture? Why just share a job description when you can have prospective employees engage with a simulation of the actual job? Why attempt to network across a video screen when VR provides an experience where dozens of people can connect with one another in an open, 3D environment? VR opens the door for creativity when it comes to recruitment and also provides job seekers unexpected benefits like anonymity if desired.

As with other applications, VR provides the closest experience to meeting in person of any technology available. Personalized avatars allow for subtle, nonverbal communication like gestures, directional gazing, and movements within 3D space. These types of interactions in a distraction-free, focused environment allow applicants and employers to conduct meaningful interviews and informative sessions in a way that closest replicates a real job fair.

Like other live events, VR presents an opportunity to explore new paradigms for remote events where the technology can not only replicate but push beyond the experience as it is today.

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