tree1

There are a lot of things in this world that everyone should see but never will. The Grand Canyon is an incredible place, one that all humans should bear witness to at least once in their lives, yet the vast majority never will. There are plenty of similar locations that are unfortunately the same. Landmarks and natural locales are rarely seen by the masses that they should be, but with virtual reality, that could one day change.

One of the most lauded capabilities of virtual reality is how it can practically transport you anywhere in the world. You can live in Louisiana yet experience the scope of the Great Wall of China, and from the comfort of your own home. That said, is it any surprise that virtual reality can be used for nature experiences as well? 

One of the most massive tree species in the world is the Great Sequoia. These trees are thousands of years old, most of them predating the Roman Empire. They’re dozens of stories tall and so wide that ten or more of any other tree could probably fit inside of them. In short, they’re incredible, yet many people will never be able to see them. At least, not without virtual reality.

This particular experience has been constructed specifically in London. It’s a combination of virtual reality and a physical set. With the VR goggles you see the massive breadth and scope of a Giant Sequoia, but thanks to the physical set you can feel it as well. You can even push your face through the outside of the tree, allowing you to see the inside of it as well, making for one heck of an educational experience if nothing else.

You even get to follow the path of water throughout the tree, which means you get to ‘levitate.’ Naturally disorienting since it looks like you’re floating but are in fact not moving at all, this may be the real reason they had a physical set for you to hold onto. Either way, while this particular experience is highly specific towards one thing, it speaks volumes about how virtual reality could be used in the future.

Maybe you could soar over the Grand Canyon (terrifying though it may be), or visit foreign castles and landmarks from any vantage point you want. The options are almost limitless, and perhaps that is what the true beauty of virtual reality is. It can put the whole world at your fingertips. Let you explore things that you never would have been able to experience otherwise. Virtual reality is still in its younger stages, and it has a lot farther to go before it reaches the no doubt astronomical expectations of society. But the best part of it all is that those expectations are not out of reach. They’re ambitions well within in reach rather than dreams, as we can now use virtual reality to see the world and beyond no matter where we are.

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doctor

In an effort to manage patient anxiety and control the costs of surgery, virtual reality (VR) is being used as an alternative to anesthesia and sedation in medical procedures with great success. One pioneering physician in Mexico began his research into this practice by beginning with the use of video games and moving to VR after experiencing success. The results have been published in an alternative to anesthesia and sedation in medical procedures with great success. One pioneering physician in Mexico began his research into this practice by beginning with the use of video games and moving to VR after experiencing success. The results have been published in an article by Jo Marchant with the BBC.

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. In 2004, Dr. Jose Luis Mosso Vazquez, a surgeon at Panamerican University in Mexico City, bought a Spider-Man game for his son. The game, an early form of VR, involved images projected onto a head-mounted display. Dr. Mosso was struck by how immersed his son became in the game and wondered if this was something that he could use to reduce the level of anxiety that patients experience during minor surgery. Dr. Mosso experimented using the Spider Man game with the head-mount while doing endoscopies. Patients were encouraged to play the game during the procedure instead of being sedated. He asked patients to score their pain level during the procedure and found that the immersive quality of the game reduced the need for sedation. In 2006, Dr. Mosso presented his results at the Medicine Meets Virtual Reality conference in California.

At the conference, Dr. Mosso met Albert “Skip” Rizzo, a psychologist (and now Director of Medical VR at the University of Southern California), who had been doing similar research with endoscopies. “He presented 10 cases,” says Mosso. “I presented 200.” Rizzo showed Mosso the expensive, state-of-the-art head-mounted displays he was using. “It was another world,” says Mosso. But then Rizzo revealed the equipment with which he had begun – it was the exact same Spider-Man game.

Rizzo was impressed with Mosso’s research and donated a headset to him. Rizzo also convinced a colleague, Brenda Wiederhold of the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego, to let Mosso use some virtual worlds she had developed specifically for pain relief.

Mosso returned to Mexico and began using his new VR setup in a wide range of procedures, including childbirth and heart surgery. VR helped patients relax in all situations, but Mosso had the most success using VR in minor outpatient procedures where patients are awake but sedated. In these procedures, Mosso used a virtual scenario developed by Wiederhold called Enchanted Forest. This virtual world was meant to relax the patient and allowed them to explore rivers, lakes, trees, and forests. Virtual experiences involving guns and violence are not used because they tend to increase blood pressure, which could result in uncontrolled bleeding.

In using VR, Dr. Mosso found that patients required half as much sedation as they normally would require and, in some cases, required no sedation. In addition to relieving patient anxiety, there has been a significant cost savings for the clinics for sedative drugs such as fentanyl and midazolam, which are very expensive. Dr. Mosso estimates that the cost of surgery has been reduced by 25%. More important, less sedation reduces the risk of complications and recovery times. With these results, Dr. Mosso hopes to see VR more widely used not just for surgery, but to relieve pain in medical situations such as wound care and dentistry, as well as in chronic conditions such as phantom limb pain. And in areas where resources are limited, VR may be a welcome solution.

"Mosso doesn’t have the facilities here to sedate her, or offer her any painkillers more powerful than the local anesthetic, so he plugs in the laptop and switches the VR back on. Veronica keeps Oliveria talking as Mosso works. “What do you see?” she asks. “Fishes, water, stones,” Oliveria replies."

The University of Washington did a striking study with burn victims, showing them an experience they called SnowWorld during sessions of skin grafting. "Pain research using fMRI brain scans show significant reductions in pain-related brain activity..."

 

Photo credit: University of Washington

 

Using VR as a high-tech distraction technique allows surgeons to carry out operations that would normally require powerful painkillers and sedatives, with nothing more than local anesthetic. In addition to significant cost savings, VR has demonstrated that its immersive quality reduces patient anxiety and facilitates speedier recovery. Now that there is research to support these claims and the price of headsets has come down, consumers can hope that more doctors will take advantage of VR in improving patient experience and outcomes.

This attention distraction power is also a game changer for uncomfortable procedures such a dialysis and chemotherapy, waiting rooms, as well as what Mosso has done, for everything from fom childbirth to heart surgery. Distraction VR is sure to be a catalyst in VR wellness applications.

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"

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neurons

It was an innocent question, but one I’d heard posed one way or another too many times. “Aren’t you the people who do the Bible in VR or something?” While a worthy project, it’s not we’re doing.

As someone who has spent their whole career in communications, I realized I was failing in positioning the company successfully, despite my many efforts. Months into the branding and promotion and hundreds of conversations thick into the business, we were still being misunderstood by some people as a purely religious company.

SpiritualVR began as a development and publishing company with the goal of body, mind, and spiritual learning and health. Although our goal was always self-improvement and spiritual exploration, we were often misunderstood as a religious organization. I believe this is because the very word “spirituality” carries a different connotation to each person. The official definitions can’t even agree with one another.

Google:
spir·it·u·al·i·ty
spiriCHo͞oˈalədē/
noun
1. the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

Merriam-Webster:
spirituality
plural spiritualities
1. something that in ecclesiastical law belongs to the church or to a cleric as such

Dictionary.com:
spirituality
[spir-i-choo-al-i-tee]
noun, plural spiritualities.
the quality or fact of being spiritual.

And the list goes on. Words have both qualitative and a connotative value. The connotative value is where we get into trouble. If I say the word “chair”, you connote an image of a certain type of chair, because you have your own past experiences and definitions to make up your meaning of what “chair” means to you. It might mean any of the following.

chairs2

It’s the same thing with any word, including “spirituality”. It could mean Buddhism. Nature. Church. Music. Yoga. It could mean chakras. We found ourselves spending a lot of time explaining “what spirituality meant to us”, and not nearly enough time focusing on how we were going to “bring wellness to VR”. We’ve always believed in the transformational power of VR for personal growth. I think now, in the letting go of the name, we will actually be able to do what we set out to.

Buddhists practice the principle of “non-attachment”, surrendering and relinquishing misguided preconceptions that will allow us to experience the essential peace that is within.

Zen teacher John Daido Loori said,

"[A]ccording to the Buddhist point of view, non-attachment is exactly the opposite of separation. You need two things in order to have attachment: the thing you’re attaching to, and the person who’s attaching. In non-attachment, on the other hand, there’s unity. There’s unity because there’s nothing to attach to. If you have unified with the whole universe, there’s nothing outside of you, so the notion of attachment becomes absurd. Who will attach to what?"

And Unity there is. It was the only sound choice for our prototype. ;)

A prototype built by our CTO, Eiran Shalev, proved methods from our Active Psychology toolkit and the self-compassion/cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) exercise for which we realized there were much wider applications. We now see the larger opportunity to help people build their emotional skills to help them thrive in both personal and professional lives and are developing toward that end.

Technology’s promise has always been to make life more convenient — everything better, and faster. Yet what’s really affecting us, killing us in fact, if not at the very least damaging our quality of life and holding us back from reaching our true potential, are our stress factors and emotional issues. Twenty-five percent (25%) of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and nearly 50 percent of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime. But only 44% of adults with diagnosable mental health problems and less than 20% of children and adolescents receive needed treatment.

That’s 180 million people missing the psychological support they need, a need NewPathVR is eager to address.

We aren’t abandoning the mission of SpiritualVR, however, we see the impact of the problems of the unwellness epidemic, specifically around stress and behavioral health, contributing to our dissatisfaction, and a 10-15% decrease in economic output. We believe we can change this and help improve health outcomes, through virtual reality.

Stay tuned.

It’s a new path. It’s going to take us somewhere better.

— NewPathVR

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explore religion1

Virtual reality is hitting practically everything in existence right now. From entertainment to exploration and beyond, it seems like there’s nothing virtual reality won’t have a hand in. But will it have a place in religion? Before any cries of blasphemy are made, it would be prudent to consider how virtual reality could affect religion, and maybe even make it more immersive and tangible for some people.

Virtual reality could be used in many ways to alter how religion works in society, and one of the most prominent ways it may do this is through travel. Almost all religions have sacred places. Jerusalem, Mecca, and the like are just a few examples of holy locations that are sacred to certain religions. Many followers of those religions would like to visit those places, and in some cases they are technically required to.

But unless Mecca is just a hop and a skip away, it’s not easy to get there. Not only is it time consuming, in some places in the world dangerous, but expensive as well. With virtual reality, pilgrims may be able to visit their holy location without ever actually leaving their own country. Whether or not this would be accepted as equivalent to a real physical journey is particular to each religion, but the point still stands: virtual reality could allow pilgrims to essentially visit places of religious importance.

But it could also be used to teach. The majority of religions have a holy book or something similar that details the past of that religion, as well as their doctrines and beliefs. While reading them from a page is certainly one way to learn, what if you could actually be there? How would it feel to sit at the feet of Jesus or Mohammed or any significant religions figure as they taught their message? Without a doubt, it would be a very different kind of experience, and may even help followers feel more attuned to their religion as they get to physically see figures of importance.

84 million Americans attend church weekly but that number is declining for a number of reasons, says Pew Research in their 2015 report on America's Changing Religious Landscape. Virtual reality offers a way for people to connect spiritually, from home.

These are just a few of the ways in which virtual reality could influence religion. Without a doubt, some religions will not accept the idea of incorporating technology into their means. Others may accept it with open arms. Either way, the potential is extremely vast, and in the end virtual reality will likely become a major part of various religions, limited only by the ingenuity of the programmers that work on it. Only time can tell how much of an influence virtual reality could have on our churches, synagogues, and mosques, but it’s an exciting anticipation that will no doubt bring some great wonders and marvels along with it.

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sad older man pic 1

An Introduction to How Immersive VR Can Improve the Treatment of Anxiety

Everyone feels anxious now and then. It’s a normal emotion. Many people feel nervous when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. Anxiety disorders are different, though. They can cause such distress that it interferes with your ability to lead a normal life. These types of psychological and emotional problems are common. There is a growing body of research that shows virtual reality can be used effectively to treat depression without medication, treat PTSD and phobias, and reduce persecutory delusions. 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and nearly 50% of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime. Only 44% of adults with diagnosable mental health problems and less than 20% of children and adolescents receive needed treatment. Between 30% and 80% of people with mental health concerns never receive treatment. In 2011, 59% of adults with a mental health problem did not receive any mental health treatment. Those numbers are only for serious mental health issues. Acute anxiety can be a serious mental illness. For people who have one, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be disabling. But with treatment, many people can manage those feelings and get back to a fulfilling life.

There are many types of anxiety disorders including the following: panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and specific phobias which are intense fears of a specific object or situation. Symptoms of anxiety disorders can be feelings of panic, fear or uneasiness, problems sleeping, cold or sweaty hands or feet, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, dry mouth, nausea, and dizziness. The exact cause of anxiety disorders is unknown, but anxiety disorders — like other forms of mental illness — are not the result of personal weakness, a character flaw, or poor upbringing. As scientists continue their research on mental illness, it is becoming clear that many of these disorders are caused by a combination of factors, including changes in the brain and environmental stress which can cause maladapted behavior.

Anxiety is generally treated with medications and/or psychotherapy. The growth of technology in medical treatment has expanded over the past several years and virtual reality (VR), a newer technology, has shown promise in its effectiveness in treating mental disorders, particularly when it is combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). VR is the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors...

Email us to receive the full white paper "Using Virtual Reality for the Reduction of Anxiety: An Introduction to How Immersive VR Can Improve the Treatment of Anxiety"

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candles

Life is hard. That is why so many people look for relief/escape in drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, food, and various forms of travel and entertainment. We are looking for instant gratification, a quick fix, an escape from a reality that has become painful and burdensome. Any uncomfortable emotion is now looked upon as a pathology to be medicated. We are not looking for personal growth, we are looking for relief.

Some people are able to look past the immediate and yearn for something more than a quick (and temporary) fix. They are not trying to escape their present reality, they are looking for a way to understand it and get better at living within it. This can take the form of spiritual tourism, whereby we look for the next vacation, trip, retreat, class, church, temple, congregation of like-minded people, to support us in our quest. While potentially helpful, there is an element of striving to this which is counter-intuitive to any real spiritual experience. And it is a spiritual experience which is required to create meaningful change in how we view ourselves and the world around us.

Virtual reality (VR) offers us the opportunity to experience a reality that is different than the one in which we are experiencing discomfort. What does this have to do with spirituality? All religions have rites and rituals designed to create an atmosphere of the transcendent. These rites and rituals use music, dance, incense, and formal prayers to create an atmosphere which invite us to experience the divine. It is in this mystical environment that we are able to expand our consciousness beyond our daily cares concerns and and connect with timeless truths which can offer us insight and guidance. This path has traditionally been pursued by those searching for a deeper meaning to their existence.

When you put on the headset, you enter into a virtual world that can be manipulated to create a specific environment tailored to meet your needs. Virtual reality has the ability to manipulate the environment and your experience in ways that can easily be more compelling than real life. VR has been successfully used in exposure therapy for treating people suffering from various phobias and from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). VR allows people to experience their fears and past trauma in a safe and controlled environment. People know that the experience is not “real,” but the brain is tricked by the artificial stimuli. The overwhelming sense of “presence” experienced in VR which makes the experience so powerful. This presence allows people to experience VR as if it were real, and to experience the powerful emotions that can be triggered by this experience. It is the triggering of these emotions that has the power to create change.

Anyone on a spiritual quest is seeking a new way of experiencing the world. Those who can afford it can travel to spiritual centers in Tibet, Bali, and other places in search of enlightenment. Most people seeking spiritual growth don’t have access to these opportunities and will need to find something closer to home. In VR, you can attend a virtual religious service along with others in a virtual space, you can listen to a teaching from a spiritual master, and you can experience meditating on a beach in Maui — VR gives you instant access to another world. The brain-tricking power of VR provides us a tool to experience life as those who have sufficient means to travel and to create meaningful connections with others whom we might not ordinarily meet.

In summary, VR can give you the opportunity to expand your consciousness and experience life in a safe environment as a means of achieving personal growth. With VR, technology replaces religious rites and rituals with predetermined stimuli which can be arranged to create the desired effect that the individual is seeking. VR isn’t going to replace religion, it is going to provide an additional tool to enhance people’s lives in a way that religion has not been able to due to the immersive quality of the VR experience.

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tree bubble

There are two technologies that humanity has been looking forward to for decades. One of these technologies is time travel. The other is virtual reality. You may want to throw ‘flying cars’ up there somewhere as well, but some people haven’t seemed to realize that planes essentially are just that. Regardless, of all of these technologies that humanity has wished for, only one of them has come to pass so far: virtual reality. The thing is, with virtual reality, it may be possible to experience the other technologies through it. In fact, some of the leading physicists think time is an illusion.

Granted, virtual reality will never be able to truly, physically send you through time and space to exist in a different era. But, with the power of virtual reality, it may be possible to experience the past and future in every sense besides the legitimate physical.

Imagine, for instance, virtual reality that lets you experience the American Revolution firsthand. As a soldier perhaps, or even one of the commanders. Or perhaps you would just be present in an ethereal sense, watching everything from the safety of virtual reality. Or consider the opposite. What if you could go into virtual reality, and experience a programmer’s idea of the world in the year 3000? While you can’t claim any accuracy to what people think is the future (though Back to the Future did an uncannily good job with their Cubs World Series prediction), you could still experience what people believe the future will be like, from flying DeLorean’s to those hover boards we never got when we were supposed to.

Obviously, none of this will truly take you to the past or the future. You will still physically be present in the world of 2017, but, the real question is, does it make a difference? If you experience something that is so real to your senses that it may as well have been, does it really matter if it actually happened? To some people it might, but to many others it does not.

If you could use virtual reality to experience say, sky-diving, would it not be the same as actually sky diving so long as it was realistic? The same notion can be held to the idea of pseudo-time travel through virtual reality. Maybe you didn’t really travel in time back to the Crusades, the American Revolution, or one of the World Wars. Maybe you didn’t really travel to the year 3000 and witness the future. But if the experience is real enough, is it not the same as though you actually did?

It is something that is yet to be seen, but highly anticipated by all. Moreover, the potential is nearly limitless. With this kind of virtual reality, will the way history is taught change? Will students be able to experience renditions of the history they are learning first hand? And what of religion? Rather than read the Bible or the Quran, will you be able to experience every part of it from the perspective of someone who was actually there? You very well could, provided that a programmer desires to make it so. Coincidentally, SpiritualVR officially announced it's developer partner program this week, inviting creators to publish through its network of spiritual and wellness-minded apps.

Virtual reality is one of the most exciting things to happen to humanity in decades. And though we may never truly travel through time, who knows what we could one day experience through the power of the technology we now have. I’ll meet you there or, rather, then.

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workout2

Anyone that’s in the know about the newest advancements in technology knows about virtual reality. It’s an extremely exciting piece of work, mostly because the versatility of it seems to be almost endless. There seems to be no limit to what can be done with virtual reality and a bit of innovation. But if there’s one place people would think virtual reality has no place, it’s in the gym. After all, how often do we see the physical and the technological mix like that? But virtual reality not only has a soon to be place in workouts, it may even make them better, through coaching, simulation, and motivation.

This is a statement that probably makes a lot of people skeptical, and it should, but there is some very real truth to it. If you’ve lived for more than a few years, it’s practically guaranteed that you’ve heard the saying ‘mind over matter.’ This saying is used all the time in exercise and workouts, though for some reason it’s usually the people that aren’t working out that say it to you.

Ironic as that is, the motto is still very true. Humans can push themselves beyond their limits with willpower, but willpower is affected by many things. Sometimes it’s outside motivation. Sometimes just hearing someone say they believe in you is enough to get through those last twenty pushups. Sometimes it’s the finish line. Being able to see the end can make it easier to reach it.

Needless to say, these are things that don’t really exist in the gym. Unless you have a really supportive partner, you probably don’t have anyone around saying you can do it near the end of your exercise. And on the treadmill, the only signs of progress and a finish line are the digital numbers on the dashboard, which are hardly motivating.

So let’s add virtual reality to the equation, and explore what that could change. To start, you could have a virtual reality coach in your workout, allowing you to follow a regimen in the gym while still receiving support and motivation from them. And for the treadmill: well, would it be nicer to run through a forest or a beach, or do you like staring at the same white wall for thirty minutes? If you could run through an environment that’s actually nice and maybe even relaxing, you are several times more likely to go through with the whole run, and maybe even beyond what you had planned.

In short, can virtual reality make you physically stronger, more fit, faster or grant you more stamina? Maybe! It can certainly amplify that aforementioned willpower. How it does this can be different for everyone because we all draw motivation from different sources, but either way, the fact remains that virtual reality can make workouts more tolerable at the very least, and even enjoyable at best. Doesn’t lifting weights in Tibet or flying through space sound much nicer than the gym? These environments are not far from reach, they are well within grasp of the average consumer in the next 5 years, you'll see virtual reality in gyms within the next 1-2 years and fitness apps available for VR headsets as soon as this year. You'll see full-body haptic feedback suits and apps that measure your heart rate too.

Drop and give me 20 - million! Because there are 20 million ways VR is going to change fitness.

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building self esteem

Psychosocial health is a combination of psychological, emotional, and social factors. It determines and reflects the way people view themselves and others, and how they deal with problems and stressful situations. Here are just a few traits shared by psychosocially healthy individuals.

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Meditation is a several-thousand year old practice for training the mind. Historically a practice reserved for quiet monks, disciplined kung-fu masters, yogis, and ochre-robed swamis, it’s now the preferred performance-enhancing practice of R&B moguls, Super Bowl Champions, Olympic athletes, and A-list celebrities.

Meditation has gone mainstream.

One reason for that is that meditation is generally considered one of the most effective ways to train and focus your attention. And now, science has shown us that the meditative state has extremely positive physiological and neurological effects. What's to come in VR is very exciting. Why? Because meditation goes well beyond stress relief, although in itself, stress relief is a fine goal. Meditation unlocks the subconscious and allows you to tap into all kinds of self-improvement and reprogramming of poor habits and thinking. Here are some research-based findings on meditation.

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