ComArtSci researcher develops first-of-its kind virtual reality guided movement meditations

Posted on: July 26, 2016

VR Mindfulness

People who find it too hard to sit and meditate have an exotic alternative thanks to first-of-its kind virtual reality movement meditations developed by a researcher and game designer at Michigan State University.

Professor of Media and Information Carrie Heeter in the College of ComArtSci collaborated with mind-body therapist and meditation expert Marcel Allbritton, Ph.D., to create meditations for the Guided Meditation VR (virtual reality) platform. Mindtoon™ movement meditations guide users through steps involving breath, gentle movement, and attention to relax the body and calm the mind.

"You chose one of the Guided Meditation VR’s natural environments. Then you choose a meditation," Heeter said. "Each Mindtoon also supports experiencing and cultivating a particular quality, such as stability, comfort, clarity or releasing."

Heeter developed six new VR guided meditations and adapted four of her original Mindtoon smartphone app meditations to offer 10 meditations, each 10 minutes in length, for the VR platform. Each Mindtoon applies the tools and philosophy of the TKV Desikachar system of yoga, with meditations facilitated within lush VR environments.

Heeter says it has been a fascinating adventure to figure out ways to adapt traditional eyes-closed meditations to work well with eyes open in a virtual world. She drew on her background in user experience design as well as VR and game design. Allbritton, who is Heeter’s meditation teacher, brought his deep knowledge of meditation to shape the process and products.

The set of coherent, consistent VR meditations will be used by Heeter to study applications and outcomes of cyber meditation. Upcoming studies include comparing meditations done with eyes open in a virtual environment to meditations done with eyes closed using smartphone apps. Other research will examine the efficacy of long-term use of guided meditations on stress reduction, resilience, and attention- and emotion-regulation in different populations such as health care professionals and MSU students.

Heeter's guided meditations are available through the Guided Meditation VR app made by Cubicle Ninjas for Gear VR. The app is free and has been downloaded more than 100,000 times since it was launched in June.

For more information, visit  http://guidedmeditationvr.com

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