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Virtual reality (VR) is an immersive technology that provides distinct perspectives on aesthetics, art, and philosophy. For two decades, VR-based therapies for neurological disorders have been tested, used, and improved by the advances in computing graphics. Data from the Global Drug Survey 2021 shows the wide use of digital wellness apps, such as VR mindfulness meditation and binaural audio, as self-accessed coping tools for mood disorders during the 2020 pandemic. Listening to “digital drugs,” or binaural audio is found to entrain the brain, synchronizing low frequencies, causing it to tune into different cognitive states, acting like a psychedelic drug. Because of the illusory capacity of high-quality audiovisual experiences in virtual reality, can we use it to guide us to self-perception and to support ? Can immersive audio-visual VR experiences generate stimuli to heighten our sense of presence? For this research, we developed a proof-of-concept VR experience in Unity with a dream-like visual landscape and 6Hz Theta waves dronescape audio utilizing the state-of-the-art spatialization plugin DearVR Pro and Oculus Spatializer. The artistic approach to qualitative method is based Francisco Varela’s process for studying the conscious human experience, both phenomenological and meditative. It was used as a first-person method during the spatial audio development and as the second-person method to gather honest responses from participants. 13 people from 23 to 57 years old participated in the 7 to 15-minute experience wearing a Quest 2 and high dynamics headphones. Among the feedback were: feelings of relaxation, awe, surprise, pathlessness and beauty. The research had positive outcome; therefore, updates focused on gameplay interactions will be considered. Despite the perceived feelings of the participants, further studies on binaural audio are necessary with ample number of participants and standardized methods and procedures.
Pereira Gloor, Rochele, "Spatializing Digital Drugs in Virtual Reality for Mental Health" (2023). University Research Symposium. 418.