Virtual reality is the hot new trend in entertainment but researchers hope it could also prove useful in fighting anxiety.
A study is underway at Canada’s Mount Royal University to assess the psychological benefits of the new technology.
“We know that there’s some research that shows that being exposed to natural environments and relaxing environments will lower anxiety levels,” Associate Professor Anthony Chaston told CBC News.
Even though it’s snowing on the campus, study participants can wear VR goggles and instantly feel as though they’re on a Californian beach.
“I definitely felt that after I was in the serene environment of the beaches, and with, like, the waves coming in, totally felt that any stress I had was gone,” said student Amanda Chodak.
The research team hopes the technology could have widespread uses.
“Wouldn’t it be great,” says Professor Chaston, “if we could have a child in hospital go on a little, hour-long African safari where he could take pictures of that environment when he’s in there, post those to his Facebook, share that with his friends?”
That’s some time off but early results of the study are promising. Most participants have indicated the virtual scenes have made them feel more relaxed than before the exercise.