SerenityVR is a virtual meditation application that combines traditional meditative and mindfulness practices with modern virtual reality technology. By creating varied environments, users can experience multiple different experiences without leaving their home. This can provide bedbound patients in hospitals, chronic pain patients and people without access to scenic environments with the opportunity to meditate in pleasant surroundings. Users can customise their meditation experience by selecting music, environments, breathing exercises and meditation tracks. The user can then move through the meditative environment using a teleport system and customise their experience further by using a wrist-mounted menu. Users can use all of these features to create a meditation that is tailored to them.
This project seeks to investigate a new possible application of meditative techniques using virtual reality technology by developing an application that allows users to meditate in a variety of environments. An application was be made to demonstrate this possibility that allows users to meditate in a customisable virtual reality environment. By creating this application, the efficacy of this method of combining meditation with technology was tested by measuring its effects on users’ mood and heart rate.
With this new market emerging for applications of virtual reality in healthcare, guided meditations within virtual reality could be an accessible method of allowing those who cannot otherwise leave their homes to experience meditation within scenic environments. This application seeks to create a method for users to experience varied meditative experiences in different locations without leaving the comfort of their homes.
To test the application on users, five anonymous participants were selected by the developer. These participants ranged in age, gender, experience with virtual reality and experience with meditation.
Prior to testing, each participant was asked to fill out a pre-test questionnaire. This questionnaire asked them for a unique identification number which would allow them to remain anonymous while their results were able to be tracked before and after the test to see the effects of their meditation. The pre-test questionnaire consisted of basic information to establish their demographic, their experience with meditation and their experience with virtual reality. The test also asked them to rate their anxiety levels at that moment on a scale of one to five, with one being “not anxious at all” and five being “very anxious”. Before running the test, each participant had their heart rate taken by an application called “Heart Rate Monitor” by REPS. The surveys and heart rate monitoring were conducted again once the user test was completed.
These results conclude that there was an overall increase in feelings of relaxation among participants and a decrease in self-reported anxiety levels. Heart rate measurements also experienced an overall decline when measured after the testing process.
Users also reported an overall positive attitude toward the experience, with the majority of the users reporting that they would be open to continuing to use meditation in virtual reality.
This thesis seeks to investigate a new possible application of meditative techniques using virtual reality technology by developing an application that allows users to meditate in a variety of environments. Virtual reality is a technology that allows users to experience a computer-generated virtual world complete with sights and sounds that help the user to feel immersed within the virtual scene. The applications for virtual reality are broad, ranging from games to military training to medicine. Healthcare is also being revolutionised by virtual reality technology, with software already on the market that can help those suffering from chronic pain, phobias and chronic anxiety.