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Meditation using Virtual Reality can take a few paths, now that the market of HMDs is maturing, more health apps are appearing on the marketplace, VR headsets are lighter and more portable. If you learned to meditate pre-VR with repeated simple phrases and eyes closed you might dismiss putting on an HMD or keeping your eyes open completely during the experience. Guided Meditation in VR, however, where you’re following a scripted journey with visuals, color, motion and audio all timed to step you through a deliberate process is a perfect use of a VR experience, particularly one that doesn’t require more than 3 DOF (degrees of freedom). Sit back and relax, and follow the path of the Chakras!
Heal VR’s first offering in the Oculus Store, Chakra VR, is a guided meditation that takes you through an Eastern-based spiritual practice, observing and concentrating on one’s Chakras, or focal points of energy in the body. The experience takes just under 20 minutes. It was designed as a seated experience, with only 3 DOF (degrees of freedom) needed. While you are seated (in a chair, or on the floor), you can look down to see an ethereal version of your own body in a meditative position, as you are part of a meditation circle. There is no action that takes place behind you or alongside you that requires you to turn your head, and you could even keep your eyes closed for the entire time if you like.
This review focuses on using the Oculus GO for the app, although you can also use it on the Rift, Gear VR, and even the Vive if you use REVIVE to run Oculus VR apps elsewhere.
The app downloads quickly, not overwhelming the OS with a large download, and starts up quickly as well. The graphics are simple but don’t feel like they are low-res or blocky to save space or to put you in a cartoon world. Simplicity is key here. In this VR world, you are sitting in a meditation pose with others in a circle, all with translucent bodies and in a peaceful and calm environment without a complicated visual world around you to distract or pull your attention elsewhere.
The app really shines in keeping your attention focused on following the instructions for breathing and concentrating. The instructions are delivered with a calm male voice, gently inspiring and encouraging, at a consistent pace and even tone. This sounds like an experienced meditation instructor recorded without obtrusive vocal effects, which avoids the feeling of putting you in a gaming world and also doesn’t become fatiguing or start to seem unnatural after listening for a few days in a row. The explanations and visual stimulation are just enough to direct your attention, and, again, short and simple enough to not become tedious even after daily practice.
In this meditation you are guided through seven levels of chakras, each one with a different color that descends from above and settles into the part of the body you are to focus on. There is nothing harsh about any of the motion or transformations, and you could, as I did after a few days, close your eyes and just listen. I found the images from the app would come back to mind anyway, which I thought was good for this app and for the meditation.
Because daily practice is recommended for meditation of any kind, I chose to review the app with the Oculus Go because this HMD is just about the most portable and simplest to set up and operate right now. I could listen with the built in audio (making sure to be alone in the room, as others will be able to hear as well) or plug in non-bluetooth earbuds elsewhere. Once the app was loaded into the Go, it could run anywhere (see the pic below, where it was easy to hand over to someone else to meditate on a plane ride with the app).
The app is currently priced at $3.99, and the HEAL VR team is working on other apps, to form a series of spiritual practices (one currently already in review with Oculus to be released to the store). It’s a fair price for a well made and well thought out app, particularly showing the developers are able to transfer a well-established experience into VR without over complicating it or adding more to it than it really needs. You might use it for a little while and then practice on your own, but I believe you could go back to using it without it feeling stale.
It would be nice to see this on other platforms, not that it needs revision or should work differently, but just to give it wider distribution. In the meantime, you could use it on a VIVE with the REVIVE software, for instance. Magic Leap users might like it as well, now that their developer kit is open, though again, this may be an eyes-open guided meditation, but it works well with just the audio immersion.
I recommend the app as worth the price and, even more, worth the experience because of its health benefits, how easy it is to get into your meditation with this app, and it doesn’t add more than needed to provide what it offers.
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