Chronic, debilitating illnesses are incredibly prevalent in modern times, and the current healthcare system is out-of-date. It is based on treating, rather than detecting sickness, a characteristic that’s carried over from the middle of the last century.
However, there is hope in sight, in the form of technological advancement. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and immersive technology have made it possible to collect data in real-time. These are exciting times; immersive technology will enable patients to receive individually tailored treatment.
Modern life, modern problems
There is concern about how technology is a significant stressor of modern life. So much so that the World Health Organization (WHO) has described stress as the health epidemic of the 21st century. The excruciating fact is that technology is both the problem and the solution.
Sarah Hill experienced this first-hand, through her career as a television journalist. As her desk piled up with reports of depressing, stressful and anxiety-inducing events, she began to feel lost in all the negativity.
In peer-reviewed scientific studies, meditation has been shown to alleviate stress significantly. This explains the success of mindfulness apps such as Headspace and Spire. These applications help users practice meditation and mindfulness, thus leading to a recent spike in the popularity of the meditation app domain.
A significant challenge during mindfulness exercises is the near-complete reliance on auditory material. You are required to plug in the earphones, close your eyes and try to focus. This can be very difficult as the mind is prone to distractions and lose concentration.
The idea of mindfulness inspired Hill to set up Healium by StoryUP, an immersive virtual reality technology. Hill says, “…there are immediate, drugless solutions out there that can provide some virtual peace.”
Healium helps people tune out their anxieties for a while, helping them focus on mindfulness and giving them a moment of serenity. The brain readily indulges in visual cues, so why restrict mindfulness to audio?
Virtual reality helps our minds immerse themselves in content that facilitates an escape into peace. This feeling transcends our mental states and influences our bodies. Within four minutes of using Healium, users showed steadier heart rates and reduced anxiety levels.
By processing the worry about whether people are performing mindfulness exercises correctly, Healium’s eyes-open approach helps them meditate longer and more profoundly.
When VR is used with meditation, it adds an extra dimension to the experience. Immersive technology makes it easier to learn how to meditate by personalising the experience. Using a headset acts like a portal to a virtual world devoid of distractions. Without ever leaving the comfort of your own home, you can travel to a variety of relaxing environments tailored to your preferences. Immersive technology creates a comfortable space within which serenity is easily attainable.
Guided VR meditations are especially helpful for people who suffer from anxiety. A patient with chronic anxiety issues said, “My anxiety was debilitating to the point where it seeped into my physical and emotional health. I was left lonely and struggling to find peace. But when I tried guided VR meditations, I could overcome my fears and become calmer. This has helped me recover from my anxiety and re-establish the social support I lost over the years.”
Peace and quietness are even more critical in the lives of the elderly. They spend most of their time in lonely places, confined to physical locations due to their ailing health, monetary issues or social problems. Virtual reality has brought the world to their doorstep, taking them to places they would only be able to imagine.
Rediscovering the simple joys of a walk along the ocean or reliving memories uplifts the lives of the elderly, a dream made possible by immersive technology.
Transcendent immersive technology
The author is the co-founder of Munfarid, an enterprise that strives to uplift society through VR. She has amassed valuable experience working with VR and immersive technology. She combines her love for societal well-being with her in-depth technical expertise.
She has consistently been working towards implementing immersive technology in different sectors. One of her most inspirational stories is about using VR to improve the lives of the elderly. By enabling the elderly to relive their best moments, a fresh new lease of life doesn’t seem so impossible. The author often spends time with the elderly, to give them company and gain feedback.
Through her activities, the author rose swiftly to the position of Co-President of the VRAR Association’s MENA chapter. The VR/AR association brings together innovators from around the world to collaborate on the development of immersive technology. The author is an integral part of the association, and she believes that it helps leading experts meet at a central location to exchange ideas and learn from one another.
She has been able to expand Munfarid from this experience, bringing immersive technology to impact society through education, healthcare, policymaking, and accessibility.
In a nutshell
Immersive technology has helped people transcend the boundaries of space and time, enabling them to travel simply with the combined power of technology and thought. It pushes our current understanding of the world and frees us to live unconstrained lives.