How Virtual Reality Can Actually Limit Distractions

An Immersive Sanctuary setting

Up until recently, one can say the global economy has been centered around information. With the overabundance of information in our world today, the center has shifted. When information is cheap, attention becomes expensive. Companies are competing for our limited attention, which often leaves us with information overload and minds stuck in a default state of distraction.

Tom Chatfield, a British writer and tech philosopher interested in improving our relationship with technology, put it this way: “We are all amateur attention economists, hoarding and bartering our moments — or watching them slip away down the cracks of a thousand YouTube clips,” he writes.

The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after just eight seconds. That’s right, 8 seconds. Our digitalized lifestyle has had dramatic affects on our brains. We all use technology on a daily basis but have little comprehension of its impact on behavior.

Steph Mitesser, an ADHD sufferer, wrote about her experience of being handed a VR headset containing a 360′ video of a dance battle in Senegal. She highlighted how the act of watching in VR was an entirely different experience for her than if a similar piece was sent to her as a YouTube link:

“VR forced me to remain present in a way that few other experiences have. In a fully immersive VR setting, I have limited agency over my surroundings, and I can’t split my attention between the virtual and physical worlds. As a result, this technology has become an unlikely ally in my struggle for presence. It’s an almost meditative experience.”

Anyone who has put on a VR headset can attest to this unique capacity of VR for complete immersion. Suddenly, there’s nowhere else to be. You are plunged into the present.

This immersion can be a truly meditative escape from our content minefield. A few minutes with no other conversation, light or sound to distract you from anything other than the experience.

At Glimpse, we incorporate the advice and counsel of subject matter experts when designing our health and wellness VR services. Bringing a psychological and sociological perspective to VR design helps us create experiences that foster the focused and distraction-free states we want to elicit from our users.

Immersive Sanctuary, a Glimpse Group subsidiary, is on a mission to bring mental and physical wellness to corporate settings through the power of virtual reality. They have recently launched their flagship product featuring virtual guided meditations and VR tai chi. D.J. Smith, General Manager of Immersive Sanctuary is thrilled with the client response and noted “We are at the tip of the iceberg with regards to the potential health benefits of this technology and I am anxious to explore it further.”

Early Adopter, a Glimpse Group subsidiary focused on education, is partnering with a major hospital to develop a VR solution to improve the lives of children in hospitals. They’re working hand in hand with the hospital to understand the needs of the children in order to build a product that will dramatically improve their quality of life.

Jay Van Buren, the General Manager of Early-Adopter, sees vast possibilities for using VR in hospitals: “There’s a famous line in Hamlet that I think really applies to our work: ‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’. VR is hacking the brain by directing and focusing attention, and if we can direct a child’s mind away from pain, or toward healing, we think we’ll be able to see real, measurable effects on their mental and physical health.”

When it comes to the workplace, inhabiting a virtual one takes the user to their own ideal productivity environment. Their computer screens suddenly float in front of a chosen setting, like a beach or mountain range.

The VR industry’s goal should be simple: construct VR environments designed to minimize distraction, improve focus, and optimize productivity. VR is the wild west, and the ways in which we settle this new and foreign land will dictate it’s impact on society.

Originally published at medium.com on May 23, 2018.

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