This project is examining how different types of virtual environments might be used to improve health and wellbeing.
It is one half of our virtual reality work, and focuses on comparing 360 degree ‘live action’ environments with other methods of immersion. Information on our work using computer generated virtual reality can be found here.
A growing body of evidence shows that spending time in natural settings can have positive effects on health and wellbeing. Yet many people may not be able to access these spaces easily.
This study is exploring how 360 videos viewed in a virtual reality headset might bring some of these possible benefits to people who are unable to visit ‘real’ environments themselves.
This might include older people in care homes, those with physical impairments caused by either major surgery or long term disability, and individuals in end-of-life care.
We’ve worked with a local media company to create a series of 360 videos which feature Cornish blue spaces and allow a user to experience a high definition ‘real life’ view of a pre-recorded environment. These scenes aim to maximise sensory immersion in relaxing environments and feature the coast, beaches, estuaries, and a clifftop theatre.
To understand people’s preferences about different virtual bluespaces, the videos were piloted in lab-based public engagement sessions. The results showed that some videos were perceived as more relaxing, and others more stimulating; but all created the sensation of really being in the virtual environment. None induced adverse effects such as nausea.
We are currently planning a study which will bring the best of these videos to older adults in ‘real-world’ settings, such as a memory cafe and hospital ward.
Alongside piloting the 360 videos, we have also developed an understanding of which health outcomes are affected by virtual blue spaces, and whether VR performs measurably better than traditional forms of technology.
We conducted a lab-based study to explore the psychological effects of underwater footage viewed in virtual reality or on a standard television. The study recruited 96 volunteers between May and August 2018 and we’re currently analysing the data.
In addition to collecting quantitative data on wellbeing, interviews were conducted to understand any potential feasibility issues, which may need to be considered for the upcoming ‘real-world’ study, due take place in early 2019.