We recently spoke to Sarah Ticho, Immerse UK’s healthcare lead, and founder of Hatsumi, about how XR can contribute to our wellbeing.

XR is more than entertainment

The meaningful applications of immersive technology across enterprise, training and healthcare are increasingly apparent and invading our newsfeeds on a daily basis, proving that XR is so much more than entertainment. Covid-19 has further highlighted the desperate need to integrate technology into our daily lives, from conference calls and collaboration tools to creative development, research and delivering healthcare support.

Digital health is a priority for us all right now – and immersive technology – and virtual reality, specifically, has an extremely promising role in supporting us whilst in lockdown. Around the world hospitals and clinicians are using VR as a tool to enhance surgical training and education, supporting patients in physiotherapy and rehabilitation, pain management and mental health therapies. VR is also increasingly showing potential in diagnosis and assessment, gathering valuable and unique data that can offer insights into our bodies and behaviours.

Sarah shared 5 ways to use virtual reality to improve your mental health whilst self-isolating.  Here is a summary of Sarah’s thoughts;

1. Get Active

There are some really interesting games that keep us motivated and start to enjoy exercise such as Beat Saber, Supernatural and Audio Trip.

2. Keep Learning

One of the biggest growth areas in enterprise applications for XR has been across training and education. Companies like Make Real are creating bespoke training simulations for companies like Lloyds. However, for those currently on furlough and self-isolating both learning how to develop for XR, as well as using XR to learn new things.

3. Connect to others

There are a variety of social VR platforms with talks and spaces to gather together with friends. Half and Half is a beautiful, playful and relaxing social experience where you can play games with friends.

Where Thoughts Go is a beautiful social storytelling experience, where you can discover the stories and secrets of other players that have gone through the experience – and leave your own for others to find

4. Get Creative

There is an increasing interest from the community around the role of virtual reality art therapy, and whilst it has not officially been approved or trialled by organisations like the Art Therapists Association, research has demonstrated it has a lot potential in supporting patients, especially those without access to art supplies or are living remotely.

My company, Hatsumi are developing a VR adaptation of an existing arts and health method called body mapping – inviting people to illustrate the embodied experience of pain and emotions onto a virtual avatar.

5. Take Notice

Practising mindfulness and meditation can significantly reduce anxiety and depression.

Explore Deep, is a beautiful example of biofeedback VR experiences for wellbeing. It is a meditative VR experience controlled by breathing, developed in collaboration with the Games for Emotional and Mental Health Lab and has shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and disruptive classroom behaviour in young people.

Other apps include Tripp, Nature Treks and Real VR Fishing.

By no means is immersive technology a silver bullet, but is certainly demonstrating profound effects on our physical and mental health, with an ever increasing body of evidence supporting it.

However, for a successful future for this industry we need greater diversity of developers and practitioners across the board, and to create cross-disciplinary collaboration between artists and games designers, researchers, patients and healthcare professionals. We need to consider how to make experiences as accessible as possible, both when designing with users in mind, but also how we access such expensive equipment.

Read Sarah’s full interview here on the Immerse UK website.