VR technology in a headset provides an immersive experience that in a few seconds can take you to a new world, spanning 360 degrees around you. Because your brain thinks you are in a new place, VR can distract from pain and with the right design also create a sense of wonder. Around the world, the positive effects on health by instilling wonder are explored. In the book, Awestruck, psychologist Jonah Paquette explains the complex process behind the experience of wonder and its value to our well-being. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu
Nature, art, theater, and music are all experiences that can arouse wonder. Now how can this be combined with VR? An example of this, in a hospital setting, is WonderVR, the Montefiore Health System, which is committed to combining art, technology, and medicine for the benefit of patients in the Bronx, Hudson Valley, and Westchester. Through VR technology, patients limited to a bed, wheelchair, or hospital room are offered virtual experiences. Studies have shown that wonder lowers stress levels and improves physical, and mental health by lowering blood pressure, increasing focus, and strengthening the immune system.
We create immersive experiences by combining digital art, beautiful worlds modeled in VR or 360 filmings, combined with rehabilitation training and imaginative storytelling. This spring, we release two experiences with artistically designed worlds in order to evoke wonder and create health and well-being.
One of these is called VirtualRehabART4Health
This experience is done in collaboration between VR-designers, programmers, modellers, motion capture labs, and professional yoga and physiotherapists working with rehab.
The experience combines virtual art, technology, and rehabilitation.
When we in reality are limited to a home, nursing home, or hospital room, we can with the help of virtual reality experience wonder in new, calming worlds.
A remarkable intersection between art, pain relief, and exercise.
The experience is inspired by three, for our VR-designers, crucial experiences of the power of imagination, VR, and wonder:
In a hospital department for patients with stroke, my sick husband and I started hiking by imaginatively entering a sea view painting on the wall. With the help of our imagination, we could leave the room, and this reduced stress and anxiety and so perhaps accelerated the recovery process?
A friend’s son was in great pain after a cancer operation when one of his legs had to be amputated. The pain made him unable to move and rehab was impossible due to pain breakthroughs; the risk of blood clots was high. Then he tried a VR-game and -headset. The result was that he was transported to a new world, forgot his body, and could move in VR without pain breakthroughs.
A person with cognitive variations tried one of our VR-experiences. They were very happy when they could move freely and fly around inside the virtual reality. Free from limitations, the person was given the opportunity to play, run, and fly in their mind.
Åsa Egnér VR designer, priest and theater director
An awe (wonder) experience, as Paquette defines it, involves two main components: meeting ”greatness” and experiencing transcendence. Greatness happens when we encounter a view (like a spectacular sunset) or a concept (such as black holes) that is too incredible to fit into our current worldview, forcing us to expand our understanding of what is possible. Transcendence happens when we take this new, reverent idea or image in front of us and try to understand.https: //greatergood.berkeley.edu