Virtual Environment First Test

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Above you can find a screen capture of our first render of the virtual environment. We are currently spending time on making a more finished version, and are adding more pieces, but are happy on how it is currently progressing.

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A chat with Ted Esser

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Recently, we had to chance to talk to Ted Esser, a Graduate Student/College Instructor/Spiritual Counselor who is pursuing his PhD in Consciousness Studies, specifically looking at the phenomena of lucid dreaming. We approached him with the intention of finding out more about about altered states and his opinion on our project so far. He was able connect with us online (and with his cute cat too!) to provide us with some great information. These are some of the highlights of what we talked about.

On surrealism, immersion and altered states:

  • With the visual and overall environment, simplicity is good – new stimulus can excite too much and throw off the user
  • Slowly changing environment and making it more surreal is good for driving people “deeper” (more immersed)
  • Different people dream differently
  • Movies changes peoples perspectives of what dreams are; scene changes happen, surrealism can be exaggerated in Hollywood
    • Right brained: more “fantastic” nature oriented
    • Left brained: more “realistic”, like physical reality
  • Making the world TOO surreal has the possibility to distract, drive the user to waking consciousness

Next, we chatted to him about our process with sound. He had a lot to say on our consideration of using an underlying layer of “binaural beats”, a type of audio track that plays back two similar frequencies in both ears to stimualte altered states of mind

  • Binaural beats allow people to stay grounded but they must be willing to let go – they facilitate places that are already there, or capacity for what is there. Can help get people deeper and more relaxed
  • Different people have different views on consciousness – beats won’t necessarily connect with everyone
  • Visuals could take away from immersion… closed eyes as an option, more focus on sound and imagination
  • To achieve out of body states, optimal setup is to have them conformtably laying down
  • Nature sounds are best for environmental sounds – music can distract if the user doesn’t like it, or can’t connect with it
  • Try out a naturalistic approach with sound

Lastly, he mentioned some different resources to check out furthe:

We are looking forward to following up with Ted and finding out more. He has provided us with some great ideas that we think will drive our project forward.

Update: A Fantasy World

For our project, we decided to move in a slightly different direction with the visuals of the virtual world, one which we think will benefit the overall experience. Our world now has a more fantasy based theme, completed with floating objects and “puzzle piece” like lanscape blocks that break apart and come back together based on one’s attention to their stress levels. These are all factors malleable by the variables of the GSR attached to the user.

We think that this will benefit our design in the long run as stress is a parameter more easily connected to pain, which is a problem our project wishes to address in the long run. Another reason for focusing in on “stress”, is that from our research we have noticed that the GSR accurately represents stress rather than emotions.

For visuals, we have two different extremities of the environment which the user can visit. The “peaceful side” starts in a world of serene fields, mountain ranges, oak trees, and birds flying around it, along with other peaceful elements we hope to add as the project progresses. When stress of the participant rises, the “chaos” of the world kicks in: the pieces of the landscape will break apart into different sections of flying earth, and the mentioned elements will spin, fly, and change colours to connect to the theme of chaos. The weather in both will also change: the peaceful environment will be sunny and tranquil, the chaotic environment will be stormy and raining.

Below you can see some of our developed concept art.

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