Studio Transcendent partnered with AppliedVR to create a therapeutic experience designed to reduce stress in the medical setting. Guided Relaxation provides a peaceful environment for meditation with a warm fire, ocean waves, and birds circling in a beautiful sky.  

Elements of this environment are employed seamlessly. As the user follows the path of the birds, the birds move closer.  A calm voice encourages the user to let his or her thoughts go like a spark from the flame, disappearing into the night sky.  The sound of the ocean helps lead to deep breathing. The user gazes into the fire and becomes aware of their heart beat.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and other medical environments have tested the experience with patients and provided very positive feedback. Research shows that average improvement across all "state anxiety" dimensions for Guided Relaxation ("Anxiety RelieVR") was 63% and Guided Relaxation reduced "state anxiety" 39% more than the 2D video did. Although originally created to soothe patients in a hospital setting, Guided Relaxation could also prove a valuable tool to help users alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, relax before a difficult event, or simply wind down after a stressful day. The experience has recently been used during childbirth as a way to manage pain as an alternative to pain medication.

Dr. Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS, who has led the implementation of Guided Relaxation at Cedars-Sinai, shared with AppliedVR a particularly moving experience he had with a patient:

I was called to the emergency room to manage a patient who purportedly got food stuck in his throat.  Gagging, couldn’t breath, etc.  They called us urgently to remove the food, which is something GI doctors do.  We ran down and checked on the situation.

It became quite clear that he was, in fact, not gagging on food.  He was having an acute panic attack and thought he was choking and gagging.  The easiest (and most lucrative) thing to do would have been to rush him upstairs and do an urgent procedure, but it would have been negative.

Instead, I called for VR.  Put him in VR… and within 3 minutes he was crying.  Tears pouring down his face.  He said it was amazing, that he thought all about his life, the people he loves, his well-being, etc.  He was transformed.  We put him in [Guided Relaxation] and he sat through all 30 minutes, literally while in a gurney in the hallway of the ER (no rooms available at this time). He felt better. No more panic attack.  He was just discharged without medications, without a procedure, and avoiding a hospitalization.



Here's a video on Wired about the project overall.

And watch this great video featuring Dr. Spiegel and his work, along with excerpts from Guided Relaxation: