24825886 10109003556931550 34405046 o

A Virtuous Reality strives to co-create whole, integrated, collaborative communities through radical honesty, love, and acceptance, rather than be slave to broken, competitive, and foul systems.

A Virtuous Reality is fueled by the resurgence of a collective moral imagination a la Russell Kirk - the “uniquely human ability to conceive of fellow humanity as moral beings and as persons, not as objects whose value rests in utility or usefulness” - and core concepts of Buddhist Economics, a system of economics highly critical of free markets and deeply invested in equity, sustainability, and right living.

A Virtuous Reality is one where we have all learned and are granted opportunities to practice discernment - the wisdom to make broad-sighted, well-informed, consented choices and the self-assuredness to determine what truly matters and what does not.

A Virtuous Reality wanders far beyond the borders of the self-contained sandbox and reaches into the elaborate web of actualized possibilities, realities in both analog and virtual, and dimensions of our unconscious psyches, most of which we accept we may never come to know but grateful still for the mere ability to recognize the complexity and depth of our collective tapestry.

A Virtuous Reality holds faith in our collective and individual self-healing intelligence. The biohackers, life coaches, spiritual techies, festival tribes, microdosers, consciousness hackers, the curious and hungry souls - all driven by a shared belief that within us all is a guiding north star - an intuitive wisdom that can perceive ethics and truths if only we allow ourselves to listen and embody.


A Virtuous Reality leaves space for the act of questioning because truths aren’t meant to last indefinitely without re-examination. All truths, individual and collective, are free to be renewed regularly because as ever-evolving creatures, our collective truths invariably evolve alongside us.

Friends, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?

Read more...

Healing and Expression Through Immersive Art - A New Paradigm

You don't need to be a great artist, or indeed consider yourself to be particularly creative. All you need is an imagination and an open mind to get the most from this VR Art Therapy course.

Here are some of the pieces of immersive artwork from our VR Art Therapy Help October 7th, 2017 in San Francisco, CA:

"I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the teams kind hospitality. I loved experiencing and experimenting with the concept of virtual reality. Definitely looking forward to the next workshop to attend." ~ Nabeel

Within this first ever of its type workshop, you will find exercises on self-exploration and healing painful emotions, as well as exercises for pure enjoyment and recreation. You'll also find exercises for interpersonal communication. This is great for better communication and an appreciation for each other, as you learn and create with one another.

The therapeutic, creative process of self-expression, can improve our physical and mental health, as well as our emotional well being.

  • It helps us to manage our feelings in a more positive way
  • Can give us the confidence to address and resolve issues from the past and present
  • Increase self-esteem and develop a greater self-awareness
  • Creating art through therapeutic means provides an outlet to express yourself freely, which will encourage and promote a healthier, happier life

Did you know that doing art for just twenty minutes a day can bring you enormous benefits, including:

  • A more relaxed state of mind
  • Lowering stress hormones
  • Help with insomnia

VR Art Therapy may sound a bit daunting, especially if you believe yourself not to be particularly artistic or creative or have not had much experience (or any at all) with virtual reality. However, this need not be an issue, as the purpose of art is simply to express, and not to judge, or compare. And, we’ll show you all you need to know.
Art should be an extension of how you're feeling, and for that, you are your own expert.

Check back with us about upcoming events (SF and LA) in your town, coming soon or to request one, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Read more...

Dr. Wang Brings Clinical Psychology Expertise & Therapeutic Innovation

drmichelleOctober 18, 2017, San Francisco, CA — Dr. Michelle Wang has been named chief psychology officer of NewPathVR, and will join as the company’s co-founder, according to CEO Lisa Padilla.

“Dr. Wang is an innovative thinker who brings both passion and strategic expertise to the table,” said Padilla. “Her enthusiasm for NewPathVR’s mission, her energy and her focus on applications with emotional wellness in mind make her an excellent addition to our leadership team, and the right choice to lead NewPathVR’s work forward.”

Dr. Wang holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and has advanced training in Attachment Theory, Somatic Psychotherapy, Mindfulness and Meditation, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Relational and Interpersonal frameworks, Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies, and Time-Limited Psychodynamic Therapy. She started her career specializing in PTSD, receiving training in state-of-the-art clinical settings including medical centers, VA (Veterans Affairs) hospitals, and centers for survivors of torture. Michelle has acted as a clinical consultant for various organizations, including assisting a Connecticut-based disaster relief team develop a somatic, body-centered treatment protocol aimed to mitigate the effects of post-traumatic stress in school-age children in the immediate period following a natural disaster. Her interest in healing through non-ordinary states of reality, specifically, Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy and Virtual Reality (VR)-Assisted Therapy led her to NewPathVR.

“I'm thrilled to be joining NewPath VR as the chief psychology officer.” said Dr. Wang, “What an exciting time to be a part of the burgeoning intersection of tech and mental health! With all that is happening around us and in our communities, it's so important to reimagine traditional healing modalities to be more inclusive to the ever-present digital age in which we are deeply immersed. I am excited about the incredibly powerful healing qualities of VR when used as an instrument to unlock parts of our subconscious that may otherwise be unavailable to us.”

About NewPathVR
NewPath VR creates research-driven virtual reality experiences for personal development and emotional wellbeing. The company creates experiences using its proprietary Active Psychology™ platform which is based on extensive psychological research with the goal of evoking positive change through transformative technology. We also power the world’s first VR wellness portal — RE:NEW (RenewVR.com).

Contact:

Ashild Fossum
Marketing and PR
NewPathVR
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
1390 Market Street #2710
San Francisco, CA 94102

Read more...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NewPathVR and LifeLiqe to Participate in Tech in the Tenderloin Organized by the Salvation Army

Emerging Technologies for Low Opportunity Youth Hackathon and Tech Carnival

September 29th, 2017— San Francisco, CA — NewPathVR is pleased to announce its participation in the upcoming Tech in the Tenderloin (TNT) Hackathon and Tech Carnival September 30th, 2017 at the community Kroc Center in San Francisco’s Tenderloin community.

This is a non-profit initiative focused on introducing emerging technology to the over 4,000 low-opportunity youth in the Tenderloin. TNT will expand career imaginations and opportunities for youth and families in our most challenging neighborhoods by connecting them with emerging tech through fun, innovative, educational programming and engaging activities.

Reimagine urban sustainability and the livability of our cities while experiencing the latest and greatest augmented and virtual (AR/VR) technologies via a one-day HACKATHON and TECH CARNIVAL.

Tech Carnival
Come for the fun! Stay for the tech! An afternoon of fun, food and festivities for kids and families. Interact with the AR/VR games, experiences, and tools. Connect with Bay Area tech companies and non-profits.

Hackathon
Experience a real-live hackathon in progress (including Stanford, Berkeley, Penn State, Carnegie Mellon, UC Davis, Academy of Art, etc.), as select Kroc Center youth support university teams in a solving their neighborhood's and our cities' toughest sustainability challenges using AR/VR technologies. Root for your favorite team during the heated evening pitch-competition!

Root for your favorite as 10 university teams from the Bay Area and beyond battle it out for the best way to engage city-dwellers in making their environment more sustainable, just and livable using augmented reality in fun and social ways.

Tech in the Tenderloin is a not-for-profit initiative in partnership with The Salvation Army's Kroc Center in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood.

At the same time we would like to announce our partnership with Lifeliqe, an AR/VR Education platform winning recent accolades from the American Science Foundation. “Our distribution of RenewVR.com of the LifeLiqe application is very exciting because we know that this wonderful education content can now reach so many eager minds seeking new ways to absorb such wondrous information about the body and science. We’re honored to be working with such dedicated developers.”, said Lisa Padilla, founder and CEO of NewPathVR. “And we’re looking forward to showing the kids what else is on our VR Wellness Portal, RenewVR.com, from games for good, to puzzles and psychedelic and space experiences, education and exploration, nature, music, and more."

About NewPathVR
NewPath VR creates research-driven virtual reality experiences for personal development and emotional wellbeing. The company creates experiences using its proprietary Active Psychology™ platform which is based on extensive psychological research with the goal of evoking positive change through transformative technology. We also power the world’s first VR wellness portal — RE:NEW (RenewVR.com).

Contact:

Ashild Fossum
Marketing and PR
NewPathVR
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
1390 Market Street #2710
San Francisco, CA 94102


###

Read more...

Mindfulness in VR

September is National Emotional Wellness Month and there's no better time to build up resilience for the upcoming school year and holiday season approaching.

Here are my tips for building resilience through mindfulness.

Right now, as you’re reading these words, this is all that exists. Put the past aside for now. Nobody knows what’s going to happen in the next few seconds, let alone tomorrow. So, by living in the moment, you’re living in the only reality that you can be sure of. This is mindfulness. Being present and appreciating now, whatever is in your "now." Living in the here-and-now is especially helpful when you’re going through a tough time.

You can take things moment by moment, rather than worrying about the whole problem. Say to yourself, ‘I’ll live my life one breath at a time and see what happens.’

1. Get in touch with your body, be mindful of your posture, straighten up a bit, let your head rest comfortably on your spine. Relax your muscles.

2. Breathe. Live life one breath at a time. Take three deep breaths before and after tackling a task or conversation. You will be more present and mindful.

3. Accept what you cannot change. Letting go of things we cannot control can be liberating.

4. Be mindful of what and when you eat. Eat slowly, regularly and because you are hungry, not for distraction or emotional reasons.

5. When you're talking with someone, pay attention and focus on making eye contact, on really seeing them. Practice mindful listening — are you truly listening?

6. Stick gratitude quotes on your wall, mirror or computer, and bring a picture of your family to work – these things may all remind you to be grateful.

7. Spend time with grateful, positive people who inspire you. Robert Emmons, Gratitude Researcher at the University of California says, ‘If we hang out with ungrateful people, we’ll “catch” one set of emotions; if we choose to associate with more grateful individuals, the influence will be in another direction. Find a grateful person and spend more time with him or her.’

8. Listen to music. Music can help focus your mindfulness and meditation practice.

9. Enjoy nature. Enjoying the sunshine and outdoors is a great way to engage the senses and be mindful of the beautiful world around us.

10. Move your body for 30 minutes each day.

11. Sleep well. Mindfulness is associated with better quality and longer sleep, with fewer sleep disturbances.

12. Take time each day to reflect on why you’re here.

13. Discover apps on RenewVR that use the unique properties of virtual reality to encourage personal transformative change. We recommend the following designed for mindfulness:

225 302b

RenewVR.com has reached more than 300 interactive virtual experiences with the power to personally transform you and build emotional wellness, with more being added all the time. Frustrated searching the app stores? Find them here! Our health and wellness app reviews bring you the best in abstract art, atmospheric experiences, exploration, meditation, nature, personal development, puzzles, and stress relief.

Events next month:

* The 3rd Annual Innovations in Psychiatry and Behavioral Health: Virtual Reality and Behavior Change in Stanford, CA Oct 6-7
* SOCAP17 is coming up Oct 10-13 in San Francisco, CA
* One Love Experience Oct 20-22 in Lake Perris, CA

Read more...

background

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Announcing Renew VR 
The World’s First VR Wellness Portal

San Francisco, California - July 1, 2017 - RenewVR.com is proud to announce the launch of RE:NEW the company’s VR wellness portal. Decades of research studies have shown that virtual reality has unique powers to increase health and wellness of the mind and body.

RenewVR.com is the only place to discover the growing number of VR wellness products. Meditation, mindfulness, nature, stress relief, personal development, music, and atmospheric environments are just some of the categories of VR wellness apps that can be found at RE:NEW.

RE:NEW covers products from all the major VR platforms including Google Cardboard, Apple iTunes, Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR, PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive. RE:NEW is the only place where people can see all the wellness apps from all of these different platforms in one place.

In addition to the comprehensive, cross-platform virtual reality product directory RE:NEW offers articles about the most recent developments in transformative technology, podcasts, events, and insights from the leaders in the VR wellness community.

RE:NEW also has a partner network for developers of VR wellness apps. Partners enjoy being part of a community where their apps can easily be discovered by consumers seeking wellness through technology as well as be included in a catalog of wellness apps offered to corporate wellness and other distribution channels. Developers can contact the company for more information about all of the benefits of joining the partner network.

RenewVR.com is brought to you by NewPathVR.com, developer of research-driven VR experiences for personal empowerment and emotional intelligence.

About NewPathVR

NewPathVR is the creator of personal development and emotional intelligence applications in virtual reality. The company uses research-based methods to create wellness applications for VR with the goal of evoking positive change through transformative technology. We also power the world’s first VR wellness portal — RE:NEW.

Contact:

Ashild Fossum
Marketing and PR
NewPathVR
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
1390 Market Street #2710
San Francisco, CA 94102

###

Read more...

by Eiran Shalev, CTO, NewPathVR

When Lisa Padilla first approached me with her vision for NewPathVR, I was immediately inspired by what we could achieve. Imagine the possibilities to not only unlock the hidden power of the brain but to empower our users to look inside themselves and find a way to improve. To feel better. Gain the strength to refine, and then to share that with others. While VR may be many things, to the folks at NewPath, it is the best tool to reprogram the brain for success. We huddled around and researched hundreds of papers where studies demonstrated how positive reinforcement, perception, and sensory filters can influence our behavior, as well as our memories.

Research and Design Phase
We knew we needed a prototype to prove VR as the right medium for spiritual growth, but what platform could serve us best?. Was this going to be a seated experience? How much interaction should it have? And what to build? For instance, did you know that if you perceive yourself as taller in VR, it actually makes you feel more confident during and after you remove your head-mounted display (HMD)? As it turns out, this is very true. Our discussions turned towards identity, and how to connect our users with their VR self. In gaming, this is called your “player self”. You have three “selves” actually. The first self, the real you, is what you do outside of games or VR experiences - ie your life: work, job, family, etc. The second self is the you that plays the game using peripherals, and experiences the content through the point of view of one or several characters in the game. You become a “player self” and share characteristics with the “game self”, but you are not the character. The third self, the “game self”, is the content’s avatar that represents you, and has a role to play in the content’s story or scenarios that your avatar experiences. By witnessing the story, and in some cases, by making choices for your avatar “game self”, your “player self” gets to experience those same emotions, and thus, share those same experiences. The cool thing about VR is that the player and the game self boundaries become blurred, such that you feel as if you are literally inside the content, and you feel much closer emotionally to the experience then you would be if you were observing the content through a monitor or TV screen. Keep in mind that taking an experience designed for a flat screen does not merit porting it to VR. All content in VR should be unique and specifically designed to transform and empower the user.

When building a VR experience, game mechanics that are based on challenge-reward systems create much more value for the user if they incorporate your senses. Adding a 360 visual experience may not be enough to trigger personal, real-world change. Adding 360 audio to that experience brings us closer, but is still not enough. By adding the ability to use your body, such as walking around and touching virtual objects, to influence the content, our team realized that we could create a world where consequences could have just as much impact on the “player self” as incentives. What’s more, if we incorporate at least 3 senses, this combination activates the memory centers or the brain. With the right experience, a player may create an association between something he/she experiences in VR, and a similar experience in his/her real life.

So, we knew we had to make a room-scale experience, and we knew we wanted it to leverage game mechanics that could change a player’s mood. The obvious choice for platform was the HTC Vive. But what about the content? I volunteered that for a prototype, we should keep things simple and demonstrate that we could achieve a basic goal. We wanted to transform a user’s mood from a negative or an indifferent position into a positive one. However, going through a sequential experience in VR, will usually not improve your life on exposure alone. In the real-world (or what we perceive to be our reality), we can usually learn any skill and master it, by practicing it over and over again. In our VR prototype, we needed to do the same. We decided that if we could create content that would teach our players some moral or zen-like lesson. A takeaway. But then also provided an opportunity to apply it, then we could create real personal growth.

Our “Self-Compassion Buddy” vision was born. In our prototype, we essentially introduced our users to their avatar self by literally creating a virtual mirror. The system tracked each of the user’s arms and mimicked his/her movement through the avatar that was reflected in the mirror. Our research showed that in order to strengthen the bond between the player-self and the avatar game-self, our users would need to interact with their mirrored reflection for approximately 70 seconds. This seems like a long time for a prototype, but in a future, commercial version of our product, the interaction could involve a game mechanic with a reward incentive. Next, we focused on the story ingredient. We did not require an elaborate story to demonstrate our vision; only a simple scene based on some narrative context. I believe that in order to create positive change or at least to invoke positive feelings, you need to have contrast, and that means placing the user into a negative situation - for a very short time of course. Then, follow it up with a positive environment filled with good energy. By placing the user into a slightly distressed state, and then moving him/her into a comfort zone, you can generate a sensation of emotional gratification. Games also apply a similar approach when they create a difficult challenge, in which a player must learn a new skill to overcome it. Once the skill is learned, the obstacle is easily navigated, and the player moves on to claim his/her reward. But more importantly, in your own life, when you undergo challenging times, and not only survive them, but learn to be stronger as a result of them, you then undergo positive change within yourself. Through overcoming these challenges, you may either improve your level of independence and self-sufficiency, or you may grow more carefree by successfully navigating stress and becoming familiar with it.

The Prototype Phase
We applied this to our “self-compassion” prototype. Imagine being immersed in a dirty, poorly-lit, virtual environment that exhumed negativity. You find yourself staring at your reflection in a mirror. You move, it moves. After a lengthy exposure to your reflected avatar, your avatar aka “buddy”, starts moving independently of you. It steps out of the mirror. Charges at you, invading your personal space. The result. You start feeling threatened. Your “inner bully” points his red finger at you and verbally abuses you, calling you “a loser...and a failure in life”. After a few moments of this, your brain switches to panic mode - a sort of fight-or-flight response. We kept the user in this state for about 7-10 seconds before interrupting the experience with another friendlier avatar. Any longer than that and we would have risked spoiling the whole experience and alienating our user.

buddy1

The friendlier avatar, a nurturing female guide appears and rushes to your rescue. Freezing the bully in action, she explains to you that the bully is you. Recap: by belittling yourself, you lose confidence in yourself. The female guide then offers words of encouragement to rebuild your confidence. Her words manifest in a new scene in which soap bubbles shower from the sky. Some of the bubbles contain cute gifts such as adorable stuffed animals and pets. We introduced a bit of the fun factor in this scene. When the user pops one of these soap bubbles containing a gift, the female avatar aka your “guide” offers words of encouragement with a positive message, ie: “Lots of people care about you.” Each time you pop a bubble, the gift item inside goes into your collection, and new positive words materialize. In the next scene, you have an opportunity to apply these gifts and redeem yourself. We call this the “pay-it-forward phase.” You observe three couples, standing at surrounding points around you. These couples each reveal a virtual buddy figure matched with his respective inner-bully avatar. Similar to your initial case, the bully verbally terrorizes his victim. This continues in an endless cycle, until you interrupt the buddy, and hand out gifts from your previous scene's collection. Each time your gifts are received, the words that were initially associated with the gift, retrigger audio playback again. The buddy’s inner-bully vanishes and the buddy then begins playing the ukulele. When all three avatar buddies receive their gifts and play the ukulele, a well-known song begins playing, lifting the mood even more and embracing a sense of relief and closure. The three playing buddies merge into one buddy enclosed behind a giant mirror. And you are once again faced with your own buddy reflection. The simulation ends when the environment cross-fades into a sunny sky, and you find yourself standing on Cloud Nine. Literally.

Post-Analysis Phase
We quickly discovered that when a user goes through this VR experience, they feel better coming out, then going in. Our research also suggests that if we had ended simulation after the initial soap bubbles were popped, gifts received, and words of encouragement heard, then the effect would have been short-lived. By adding the “pay it forward” scene, where the user returns the favor and gives a gift to his surrounding buddies, we essentially teach our users to apply their acquired skills and pay them forward. To share. Therefore, our users resolve to help themselves, feeling a sense of contribution and meaningful value. Generosity in VR impacts our users in the real world and has longer lasting effects on their mood. It builds confidence and self-love.

buddy3

Our biggest challenge in building this first prototype was testing it. I relied on using Unity as our main game engine development tool. Unity not only has established partnerships all over the world, and is compatible with 27 target platforms, but it is also free to use for development. Due to our limited resources and limited access to the HTC Vive, I ended up building our prototype using game object placeholders to represent both the HMD and the two game controllers. I then parented OpenVR’s game controller objects under these placeholders. When I repositioned the placeholder game objects in Unity’s simulator, I was able to estimate fairly accurately how the HTC Vive’s game controllers’ movement would impact the VR environment around them. On a weekly basis, under limited time and limited test access to the shared hardware, I methodically validated and tested our experience on the Vive hardware, tweaking and improving our prototype step by step. Unity is not quite WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) when it comes to the built-in development simulator. That’s why end-to-end testing is so important, especially in VR. I set up a mode that would allow me to switch between my mocked game objects and the hardware game objects in the scene project. Doing so, allowed me to execute a series of tests on our shared hardware device while continuing development in our mocked Unity environment.

Our second challenge was getting our 3D buddy avatar to move correctly in our initial mirror reflection scene, used to build an identity association with your inner buddy. I solved this by building a mimic-engine that tracked the delta positions of the mocked, game-controller-object placeholders. The engine then inverted these vectors and applied the new deltas to a basic, rigged stickman model. I added constraints on the limbs of the stickman and locked the lower limbs so that only the upper body would be affected to move freely. And it worked. Additionally, since the Vive is a room-scale experience, the position and orientation of the stickman (aka our buddy reflection) needed to map to my HMD game object’s position, such that when I moved left or right, my reflection (facing me) would move in the opposite direction. And because the mirror image itself has borders all around, our 3D stickman was piped through a render-texture camera, that projected the image onto a 3D mirror game object as a texture. The mirror game object itself had no reflection, but projecting the stickman as a texture on top of it, gave the illusion of a mirror reflection.

No matter how you choose to implement your own VR project, remember that VR is highly immersive. Due to VR’s transformative nature, the underlying purpose of your content should support a key responsibility for contributing to social goodness, and hopefully, empower our users to live more fulfilling lives.

Eiran Shalev is an experienced technical, hands-on leader with 18 years of professional expertise overseeing top teams on mobile, social, and web technologies for products ranging from multi-player mobile & social games, to streaming video ads to interactive television and more. He comes from Disney Interactive, where he established the technical vision, and helped to scale and deliver Disney’s mobile technology platform to all game studios. Before that, he spent time at Koolbit, Kabam, and RockYou! He has built more than 50 games. He joins NewPathVR as CTO.

Please also read our white paper: "Using Virtual Reality for the Reduction of Anxiety: An Introduction to How Immersive VR Can Improve the Treatment of Anxiety"

Read more...

awe

Even if we have not had a “spiritual experience,” we are probably familiar with stories of these experiences. While Virtual Reality (VR) is being used to create greater immersion in video games and as a tool used by therapists for exposure therapy in treating phobias, SpiritualVR is leveraging the unique properties of VR to create emotionally powerful spiritual experiences that can have a positive impact when you return to the real world. These experiences are being developed to help people change their thinking and, as a result, change their behavior.

How does that change happen? It is helpful to look at the research done on awe by Dacher Keltner, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His work in awe helps us to understand the nature of spiritual experiences and how they can have a positive impact on how people live their lives. “...[A]we involves a challenge to or a negation of mental structures when they fail to make sense of an experience of something vast.” Encountering something vast and surprising evokes feelings which cause the self to feel small, powerless, and confused. In this state of confusion, the self is faced with the challenge of either dismissing or negating the experience, or accommodating the experience. Accommodating the experience involves accepting the feelings of power, wonder and fear, which can create feelings of timelessness, selflessness, humility, and a greater sense of connection with the world around us. This is similar to the sublimation of the ego (and conditioned belief systems) required for all spiritual transformation. In simpler terms, you cannot have a spiritual experience without letting go of preconceived notions of being in the world.

Predictability prevents change. We do not change in situations which are predictable. “Fleeting and rare, experiences of awe can change the course of life in profound and permanent ways.” Awe involves a need for accommodations. If such an experience is not negated or dismissed, feelings of enlightenment and rebirth can occur when mental structures expand to accommodate truths never before known. It is these “peak experiences,” as described by Abraham Maslow, which have the ability to create transformative, or spiritual, experiences.

What does this have to do with Virtual Reality? It is the immersive quality of “presence” in VR that makes it so powerful. At a basic level, VR creates an alternate reality in a virtual world with props to increase its reality. Adding sound and touch greatly enhances the virtual world to the point where it can be indistinguishable from the material world that we inhabit. The props used in VR are capable of “tricking” the brain to make the virtual world indistinguishable from the real world. It is in this virtual world that “reality” can be manipulated to create desired change. With awe, change occurs as a result of successful accommodation to an unexpected and overwhelming experience. In VR, change can be created by manipulating this environment and providing predetermined stimuli to cause a desired change in behavior.

Virtual reality gives us the capability to manipulate reality in ways that can be therapeutic. In one of SpiritualVR's prototype applications where we are testing the powerful properties of psychology, we examine "self-criticism". The user/subject appears as an avatar (a figure representing an actual person). Another avatar appears and begins to criticize the subject. The subject is next greeted by a third avatar who releases a large quantity of bubbles from above. Some of these bubbles contain “gifts” which are captured and held by the self. The self then gives these gifts to three new avatars who are expressing discomfort. Each gift is a compliment to counter the criticism received by the self. It is this act of altruism in giving the gift of compliments to the distressed avatars that creates the experience of compassion. This modeling of behavior in expressing compassion to others is meant to counter feelings of self-criticism. If we can learn to treat others with compassion, we can learn to treat ourselves with compassion.

Keltner concludes his discussion of awe by stating that “Awe can transform people and reorient their lives, goals, and values” making “awe-inducing events ... one of the fastest and most powerful methods of personal change and growth.” The same can be said of SpiritualVR.

Please also read our white paper: "Using Virtual Reality for the Reduction of Anxiety: An Introduction to How Immersive VR Can Improve the Treatment of Anxiety"

Read more...

brain tears

VR developers are getting good enough at fooling your brain in virtual reality that they also have to start worrying about your safety. Scientists and researchers really have no idea whether and how long-term exposure to VR changes the brain. This begs a discussion about responsibility as to what we create. There are decades worth of research into how motion simulators affect people, etc. and we have some insight into the psychology of the software interaction, and the physiology of the how the body and mind react.

What we're able to do with the technology that has come available in the last couple years is exciting, and so much more impact than other forms of media. We need to think long and hard about what long-term exposure looks like.

The way VR fools your brain into thinking that a virtual space is real is by knowing what pieces your brain uses to construct reality, and then giving your brain the same information, presented in virtual reality. The vestibular system in our ears tells our brain about our position in 3D space by helping us achieve balance. But there's a lot more to it than motion sickness, which Chris Dede from Harvard University, says affects roughly 3% of VR users.

With recent mapping data from the Human Connectome Project revealing 180 distinct regions of the brain, imagine what's possible when you consider that VR is being used for pain reduction, PTSD, and social anxieties like fear of speaking.

The key to achieving these goals is to first understand the senses that the human brain uses to intuit what is real, in the real world, and then give those senses the same types of data, but in the virtual world.

Creators need to take great care in how they prepare users for their experiences, something that so far I don't see enough of yet. Because your brain can be so thoroughly fooled into thinking the virtual world is the real world, those who experience VR may need to be warned about the content that awaits them. First impressions are important, something scary in VR could be offputting at least and in worse cases disturbing.

Adding enough sensory and directional data in virtual experiences is important not only in keeping the brain believing that the virtual world is real so that we can enact situations to enlighten and educate ourselves but also to avoid potentially negative or even traumatic experiences unintended in VR.

At a recent Cannes Lions Festival appearance, Google VR vice president Clay Bavor said: “When you look at your brain under an fMRI, remembering and experiencing look very similar.”

They also impact you similarly.

Please also read our white paper: "Using Virtual Reality for the Reduction of Anxiety: An Introduction to How Immersive VR Can Improve the Treatment of Anxiety"

Read more...

new american

What a year it’s been. Precarious, strange, extravagant, horrific, real. It is staggering to know we are at once capable of feeling disillusion and awe, love and suffering, stillness and chaos. Where one ends and another begins is hard to tell. In times like this we are tempted to lose focus, but it is exactly this time that our full presence and participation is required.

Our participation is our awareness and our willingness to ask the important ‘whys.’ We’ve been roused from the American Dream and awakened to a new American story. When we are lost and without direction isn’t it our nature to return to the basic, that which is simple, and turn to those whose kinship we can rely on? It’s what I call the return to a Virtuous Reality.

Life, as it always has been and continues to demonstrate, is truly a remarkably complicated journey, taking us on the ride of our lives, and demanding our capacity for both intrigue and sobriety.

“From Sea to Shining Sea”

The intrigue is what drew my Chinese-Korean immigrant parents to this country in 1985 with $250 USD in one hand and the sweet promises of the American Dream in the other. I heard the familiar lines immigrant parents say sometimes - of needing to work three times as hard to get half as far, that great things will happen to you as long as you work hard, and if great things aren’t happening you haven’t worked hard enough. Dreams of becoming an artist or musician were quickly funneled into a box labeled “Hobbies,” and I was summoned to pursue more serious vocations - you know the type.

Growing up we had a straight row of white picket fences and a very effective home alarm system. I tagged all my school supplies with my name written in cursive for more grades than I can count. Warnings of “stranger danger” and poisoned Halloween candy were well-versed mantras. “The Country of Beauty” is also the literal translation of “America” in Chinese so the vigilant guarding of personal property, the blatant racism my parents and I encountered, and the arbitrary nature of authorization confused me as a young child. Perhaps the beauty was in the possibility of raising free-thinking children in this country or in the promised equal opportunity for those who could exhibit hard work, determination, and initiative. A few others might have been missed: nepotism, segregation, privilege, misogyny, discrimination, competition, etc. But who’s to say? Maybe in the back of their minds they secretly understood hard work and determination can get you places, but first-world standards of success usually require an extra shot of moral concession. The Dream was a temporary solution to a deeper wound and my parents really needed a salve.

The Country of Beauty” is also the literal translation of “America” in Chinese

The Sojourner Experience

Within 17 years my parents grew to experience the sobriety of what quickly became referred to as “The American Dream” in air quotes and often accompanied by a deep sigh. After almost two decades of paving a successful path for themselves in spite of being treated like second-class citizens, no amount of opportunity no matter the price tag could convince my parents to remain in the States any longer, confirming once again that financial wealth is a terrible predictor of happiness. When I graduated high school in 2002, the 3 of us boarded a plane to Urbana Champaign, IL where I would embark on the next chapter of my newly adult life; my parents were to jet back to Beijing where my father had a cushy tenure position waiting at Beijing University and my mother did not have to feel humiliated on a daily basis for her accent.

Now, the American Dream wasn’t a failure for them - far from it. They had simply come to realize that it was more of a single paragraph on a page out of a much longer novel. It was not the destination they hoped it would be but it was an important and necessary leg of a much larger journey. I too give it as much credence as I would any dreamy enterprise. My parents traversed the great unknown, carried largely by their faith and determination to do the right thing. And for them, the right thing was to assimilate, acculturate, and acclimate. I cannot underscore my gratitude enough for the foundation and stability they provided. I could earn a doctorate in clinical psychology - a career that seems frivolous to many of their peers - and I have the luxury to explore the depths of my consciousness and garner a real sense of self-assuredness about my place in the world. A success by all accounts, just, not the end of the story. 

The New American Story

My parents gifted me the luxury to question. Their preoccupation with safety gave me the luxury to question the value of it. They created the sandbox, and I was allowed to play freely, but as is the case with human nature, in due time I began kicking at the boundaries wanting more than what security and containment could provide. I questioned my parents in ways they never dared to question theirs. And I found this to be a sentiment shared by many of my peers. One by one we all heard ourselves exclaiming at one point or another, “This can’t be all there is to life!” We quickly familiarized ourselves with the parameters of safety and then began the search for courage, because we knew it was courage, not safety, that will take us deeper, higher, wider, and ultimately beyond our dreams and certainly that of our parents’. We felt empowered enough to disrupt status quos, reconfigure beliefs that have gone unexamined for too long, and challenged systems that were never designed for growth but the preservation of stasis.

My parents gifted me the luxury to question. Their preoccupation with safety gave me the luxury to question the value of it.

We began asking more questions. What was all the fear mongering really about? How do our picket fences interfere with community and trust building? How can we combine all of our 1.5 bathrooms, 1.5 children, surveilled units into one shared living space? Can we share more of our resources and avoid feeding into a hoarding culture of possessions and ownership? Is working hard for a lot of money really all that rewarding? And might we consider redefining “work?” Or “work-life balance for that matter?” And will there even need to be a balance as more and more of us feel wedded to work, self, and romantic interests with equal vigor and devotion, what David Whyte refers to as “The Three Marriages?”

We began to ask how we can better address the concerns of the rightless: the working class, immigrants, refugees, the displaced, and the stateless. We allowed ourselves to admit that we don’t have any tidy answers but we are trying. We began re-enlisting members into the humanities, the arts, trades that address not only the intellect but the corporeal, no longer “wishy-washy” careers but perfectly viable ones for a soulful life. We embraced technology, albeit with conflicting measures, as a compelling inflection point that holds so much potential for good. We started to redefine what constitutes a “family” as more of us feel we can belong to many tribes and communities that feel no less kindred than those related to us by blood and no less meaningful than traditional nuclear family units. We began re-exploring the ideas of marriage and romantic partnership since so many of us witnessed the archaic paradigms simply, truly, repeatedly not work or demonstrate relevance to our present-day values.

Friends, we’ve woken up from this American Dream and now it’s time to reimagine The New American Story - of tearing off concealing draperies, of repatterning and retelling, of countering the blistering “over-politicized and under-moralized” culture David Brooks claims to have been our country’s problem for the last century and guiding ourselves gently back to grace and morality, of bringing back lost virtues. The New American Story is the creation myth of the ever-evolving, steadily-unfolding of our prodigal return to a more Virtuous Reality.

Friends, we’ve woken up from this American Dream and now it’s time to reimagine The New American Story

A Virtuous Reality

One glance at Burning Man culture, festival culture, the tribal revival movement, and the rise of intentional communities, and it becomes glaringly clear the kind of Virtuous Reality more, and more of us hope for, and for some, return to, for this way of living is not new even if it is revelatory. A Virtuous Reality offers opportunities to meet our fullest potential, to courageously move with and beyond our fears, to find communities in support of our psychological and spiritual growth (and with whom we may consider co-parenting our young), for the sowing of social consciousness seeds around matters of space, ownership, ecosystems, and disparities, to foster wisdom in knowing how to meet human suffering with compassion and quiet stillness, and for the allowance of our collective weakness, fragility, and failures because those qualities are what drives evolution.

We may differ in how we imagine this Virtuous Reality, but most of us would agree that a virtuous one, however defined, is vital to a life well-lived. So I’ve started a Virtuous Reality Manifesto, intended to open dialogue, be edited, and begin setting a framework for our New American story.

The Virtuous Reality Manifesto

Virtuous Reality as a Nondual Space

Anyone who’s ever experienced a non-ordinary or altered state of consciousness - be it through daydreaming, a meditation practice, flow state, REM sleep, floatation tanks, entheogens, or immersive virtual experiences - can understand what it’s like to be in an elevated or expanded state. That feeling of expansion in our physical bodies that allow for deeper exhales; of feeling bigger than our worldly concerns; of being struck with awe and gratitude at the simplest things we’ve grown accustomed to overlooking; of not being limited by our physical bodies and intellectual capacities; and perhaps my own personal favorite, the unlocking of our creative genius - a treasure trove of ideas and concepts we can sometimes hardly believe are our own.

In these states we find ourselves holding multiple realities, states of mind if you will. One reality is our ordinary consciousness, and at least one other is our expanded one. They may often feel like seemingly opposing realities and yet they co-exist. An example is Virtual Reality (VR). VR floored me the first time I experienced it. There was the bizarre phenomenon of at once feeling emotionally affected and intellectually robbed as my body responded to stimuli my intellect was fully aware wasn’t there. Underscored in this state was the process of my brain indiscriminately registering all subjective perceptual input as valid and real, regardless of the version of reality.

That there are co-occurring truths was not what floored me. What floored me was how, for the first time I had encountered a technology, an actual piece of hardware, that serves as a tool to show me (not tell me) that the stubborn Cartesian dualism of “subject” vs. “object,” “good” vs. “bad” was indeed far too simplistic and frankly insulting to the intelligence of profoundly complex humans living in an even more complex tapestry that is the phenomenon of life. I no longer needed to imagine nonduality, it was available for me in first-person, cutting through all intellectual and egoistic disbelief and filtered through my body’s somatic knowing. What floored me was the existence of a platform that offers the experiential knowing of nonduality, which I view as the acknowledgment and willful acceptance of multiple realities and multiple truths; the essential oneness of everything - a worldview much more compelling and with far greater reaches into the human potential than the alternative.

...the stubborn Cartesian dualism of “subject” vs. “object,” “good” vs. “bad” was indeed far too simplistic and frankly insulting to the intelligence of profoundly complex humans living in an even more complex tapestry that is the phenomenon of life...

As a practicing Emotional Intelligence Coach I see people clinging onto old narratives that no longer serve them, and of course, this makes complete sense if the belief is that there can only be one story and the hand dealt at birth is the only story available. No matter how much we may want to give up our narrative, as long as the belief is in either/or’s and zero sums, our attempts will be futile. The moment we let go of the idea that our stories are fixed is the moment we begin inviting in new ones. We may no longer look to define ourselves solely by a Meyers Briggs type or an astrological sign; we may see ourselves as both an introvert and extrovert under very different conditions; our partners saying “you’ve changed” may not be a sign of a doomed relationship, rather, an evolving one because we are all many things at once.

In a Virtuous Reality, there is a belief that everything is interconnected and many narratives exist at the same time. Nonduality begets liberation.

Virtuous Reality as a Possibility Space

Since my first VR experience, I have explored a wide range of others. One of my favorites is Fantasynth, a VR experience where the player leisurely glides through a hypnotic array of colorful backdrops and light shows synchronized to electronic beats. There is no need for controllers, and the experience does not require an avatar, so in the virtual world, I am quite literally without a body. Staring down at the empty virtual space where my brain expects my body to be, I considered this might be what it feels like to be without consistent form and disembodied. As you might’ve guessed disembodiment is not part of my repertoire either as a coach or Chief Psychology Officer. In fact, disembodiment has become such a rampant present-day concern that embodiment and mindfulness have become household names and digital detox and meditation commonplace practices.

And yet, I never fully bought into the idea that embodiment could only be learned through locating our physical bodies. I imagined if we placed intentional awareness on the sensation of being disembodied, we might find cues that teach us how to (re)embody. But I wasn’t quite ready to prescribe that to anyone. So every Friday, for four consecutive months, I very intentionally explored the relationship between VR and my corporeal awareness. What I found was a strange, beautiful, and surprising assortment of states and contradictions - disembodiment and embodiment, empathic transcendence, amplified awareness of consciousness, and an uncanny ability to suspend disbelief, which freed me from judgment and afforded me the psychic spaciousness to wonder and wander much as I would as a child. I was simultaneously the creator and the creation, the object and the subject, philosophically and neurologically the differences all collapsed and I had never been more aware of my own consciousness, at once distinct and imperceptible.

What I found was a strange, beautiful, and surprising assortment of states and contradictions - disembodiment and embodiment, empathic transcendence, amplified awareness of consciousness, and an uncanny ability to suspend disbelief, which freed me from judgment and afforded me the psychic spaciousness to wonder and wander much as I would as a child.

But I also noticed I had very few people with whom I could process these wonderments because in the larger community still, very few people have tried VR let alone own headsets, and in the clinical psychology community the numbers are even fewer. While I hear so many espouse the healing potential of VR, meditation, therapy, entheogens, etc., what I don’t hear being discussed but might be the most integral element to the sustainability of transformation: the formation and maintenance of in-person communities to balance out our media ecosystems. We don’t need research to tell us that in order to reach our highest potential we need in-person communities operating in real time to physically hold and nourish us with touch, food, witnessing and acceptance. After we’ve experienced other truths we need spaces where we can share those realities; this is where we derive courage and a sense of ground.

Without the support of one it is unlikely anyone will embark on the path towards awakening. This is why I think so many people enthusiastically download meditation apps but immediately stop using them when they realize they have no idea what to do with this newly heightened awareness and there’s no one qualified or trusted enough to guide them.

Enlightenment, after all, comes with responsibility and anyone who’s ever taken on a heavy knapsack without support knows, we simply don’t get very far. In a Virtuous Reality I envision community-generated, peer-facilitated, in vivo and virtual meet-ups for people exploring contemplative and consciousness expansion practices. Communities will gather regularly with the intent of exploring the elusive self and rooting insights garnered through these expanded states in meaningful ways relevant to our daily lives. Over time I imagine the process of integration will be internalized and become the default mode by which we approach all of life’s significant experiences whether in community or in solitude, virtual or analog.

And then there’s the fear of a Virtuous Reality, as counterintuitive as it may seem to some, it also makes a lot of sense. Most people I talk to are still very afraid of mind expansion tools such as psychedelics and VR and while I do not share the same fears I can understand more generally the anxiety towards any unknown medium. My guess is there are deeper, more subconscious forces fueling this anxiety. The limiting of human consciousness is not just reserved for “evil” institutions to bestow upon us, we do it to ourselves all the time. I believe the fear of our own possibility and potential far exceeds our fear of our own bondage and demise. Abraham Maslow describes this as the “Jonah Syndrome,” the fear of our own greatness and actualization -

It is precisely the godlike in ourselves that we are ambivalent about, fascinated by and fearful of, motivated to and defensive against. This is one aspect of the basic human predicament, that we are simultaneously worms and gods.

The fear is of our highest possibility. In any Possibility Space, be it a Virtuous Reality or a virtual reality, we will notice resistance to possibilities and we can often trace the resistance back to ourselves. As I like to ask my clients, if you knew the view from the penthouse was breathtakingly spectacular but the inevitable plummet would be equally so, would you still want to visit the top floor? Or would you consider the 4th floor where the view isn’t very impressive and neither is the fall? Our fear of being morally shattered by our experiences - high or low - is often what keeps us stuck, smack dab in the middle.

Like any tool, technology, or human, Virtuous Reality has the possibility for both “good” and “bad.” Of course it does. It has the capacity to be as remarkably favorable as it does severely distasteful because it is simply a reflection of our collective humanity and we are capable of everything. And that’s what I like about this Virtuous Reality - it is a Possibility Space that can surprise us, delight us, and teach us. I think the next level of this game will require us to collectively move beyond our desire to be safe and the illusion that we are distinct organisms separate from everything else. We’ve got to possess a voracious appetite for truth and exploration so that we can reweave another narrative that can dance alongside all the other ones, no one more or less important than the other. Our challenge is to step on the path of nonduality and devote ourselves to the practice of radical inclusiveness.

Possibilities of a Virtuous Reality have always been there and it is not outside our scope, our brilliance, or our humanity. The question is, do we have the moral imagination, the courage, and the responsibility to choose it?

Read more...