A fascinating paper was just published on the topic of using virtual worlds to train people in stress reduction techniques.
Read the full paper here: “The Feasibility and Impact of Delivering a Mind-Body Intervention in a Virtual World“
The paper describes a pilot project using a virtual space to bring volunteers through a mind-body medical intervention. The volunteers learned how to elicit the relaxation response, a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress. Typically, people learn how to do this in physical-world training sessions. But in this case, they were able to use a 3d simulation in a group learning environment.
Some of the challenges they faced in the course of the project included:
“…although it is indeed feasible to present this type of program in a virtual world, the user interface is problematic. Recruitment was limited to individuals with prior experience in Second Life since the interface was known to be a barrier to entry. Even with such inclusion criteria, some of the less experienced users had problems that likely affected their participation.”
“…in the absence of remote sensing technology, it is very difficult to know if the participants are taking part in the exercises or successfully eliciting the relaxation response.”
Our next-generation multiuser virtual world platform Jibe addresses all of these challenges. When you set up your own Jibe world, you have complete control over the user interface and can customize/simplify it however you wish. A Jibe world can also be embedded in any web page, which makes it as easy as possible for people to access. And finally, we’ve build our Jibe platform from the ground up so that it can directly interface with remote sensing technology.
Due to the positive results from this pilot study, Dr. Daniel B. Hoch and his team are planning to conduct further research. It will be very exciting to see techniques like this evolve to improve the quality of life of people around the world. And here at ReactionGrid, we’ll keep building the technological platforms that can help make it all happen.
UPDATE 4/6/2012: Here’s a press release about the research project from Massachusetts General Hospital with additional quotes by Dr. Hoch.