Healium wants you to calm down with VR and AR
You can use virtual reality for some of the most exciting experiences in interactive media. Just look at all the first-person shooters and action games on the Vive, Rift, and PlayStation VR. The technology can be used for much more than that, however, and the meditation tool Healium XR is designed to de-stress users instead of getting their blood pumping.
Healium is a biometric relaxation and anti-anxiety tool created by StoryUp that makes use of minimal hardware in order to function. Either as an AR app on iOS and Android devices, or as a VR program compatible with the Oculus Go or Google Daydream and the original Muse headband, users can view worlds that change depending on their brain activity and heart rate. In the real world, you can see a dying tree spring back to life through your smartphone’s camera. A dimming sun can return to its glowing state with only your thoughts.
You can control your anxiety
Healium actd as positive reinforcement for the notion that your thoughts are still under your own control. Stressed or anxious as you might be, making relatively small changes in your thinking can sufficiently slow your heart rate. It’s also metaphorical, with users encouraged to use what they’ve learned and apply it to everyday life’s anxious moments.
StoryUp CEO Sarah Hill is a former broadcast journalist who left the industry after it began taking a toll on her own mental health. She had already been developing tools to assist aging and terminally ill World War II veterans in visiting virtual memorials when they were unable to travel. During these tours, Hill and her team noticed that VR appeared to be physiologically benefiting the veterans in unexpected ways. Some seemed to be pushed beyond their normal physical limitations.
“We had one caretaker who told us that her father was not able to lift his hands above his head and that we would have to put the goggles on for him,” Hill told us in an interview. “But halfway through the experience, he had his arms above his head trying to reach out for the people he saw in that experience.”
A tool for better understanding yourself
Hill likened the boost to “superpowers,” and StoryUp partnered with the NeuroMeditation Institute to study the effects a virtual reality experience can have on brainwave patterns and heart rate. She explained that research studies have already shown that Healium can reduce beta activity in the brain, which is linked to stress. It also increases gamma asymmetry, which is associated with positive thinking. This occurs in just four minutes.
“What we’ve developed is not any replacement for any kind of psychotropic medication in any way,” Hill stressed. She explained that there wasn’t yet sufficient information on the long-term positive effects of Healium. This includes how the brain will look a week or more after using the program.
Hill hopes that future research can help the Healium team determine the lasting impacts and benefits for users. Short-term benefits, however, are undeniable. Users who had their brain activity examined minutes after using the program had experienced significant improvement. Hill herself said it lasts longer than that for her, albeit with repeated uses helping to sustain the effect. Healium isn’t intended as a replacement for therapy, though an “Enterprise” version can be used in practitioners’ offices. It’s currently being sold as a self-awareness and stress-management tool. However, future studies will be examining how Healium could be used in individuals who deal with post-traumatic stress, including pilots.
Healium individual memberships are available now, and cost $29 per month. The platform adds new content every 60 days and there are about 12 base experiences in the program. It’s also available for use in in office setting via a six-month subscription for $594. The software comes bundled with a curriculum on neuromeditation.