Psious, a virtual reality and augmented reality technology company, originally designed its products to help therapists combat anxiety disorders in patients via immersion therapy. For example, as Helen Lock of the Guardian reports, for patients with a crippling fear of insects, the therapist could expose them to their fears using VR without having to find a bunch of bugs in real life. The company has now expanded its offering to help businesses promote mental health. The vision is that instead of venting angrily around the water cooler or seething internally, there are always-on methods to support employees with depression or anger and provide an outlet to direct their feelings in a healthy way.
The technology can be used to manage a variety of maladies, including stress, ADHD, and fear of public speaking, according to the Psious website. But they aren’t the only ones: CleVR offers a range of VR systems that treat phobias through exposure therapy, while Guided Meditation VR can transport employees from their cubicle to a calm, quiet field, where they’ll be walked through breathing and meditation exercises. Some of these solutions are also suitable for treating PTSD, which can be helpful for veterans or victims of traumatic evens such as sexual assault.
Back in July, NewPathVR launched a portal called RE:NEW, which directs users to a catalogue of wellness applications. Charles Singletary at Upload highlights Google’s Happinss, the “rhythmic casual game” Thumper, and Fearless, another exposure therapy offering, among the different apps available.
There are also VR applications for fitness, job training, and more as the emerging technology continues to find use cases to benefit employers and employees alike. In October, the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift VR launched a business offering to support a variety of initiatives including training and workplace productivity.
While the digital takeover of wellbeing may seem imminent, some are skeptical of how far these technologies can go in solving what is essentially a human problem:
“It is encouraging to see that organisations are equipping their employees with these resources that can potentially help to manage wellbeing,” Sarah Crozier, a senior lecturer in occupational psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, told the Guardian. “But there is the possibility of overburdening ourselves with smartphone technology—it becomes a further demand and can replace engagement with social support (such as spending time with family and friends), which we know is very helpful in promoting our wellbeing.”