Editor’s note: In the virtual digital world of the Metaverse, you can come to the corner of Motion to find a naked lady blue as an escort; wander in the underwater kingdom and talk about your troubles; you can close your eyes and do meditation exercises to gain peace of mind; You can find a robot to chat and communicate, and get rid of the boredom in your heart; you can also experience the application of improving mental health to effectively treat your PTSD, and so on. The world of virtual reality to relax and relieve stress sounds so wonderful, but the author’s own experience of human-machine conversations shows that the metaverse does not make him happier. After reading this article, do you expect more from the Metaverse? This article is from the translation, I hope it will help you.
Several companies are trying to use virtual reality to reduce our stress levels in real life. What will happen?
1. The real experience of the Metaverse
David said to me, “You should try to get out of your house. Try to go out and meet people. I mean, you can go on a date or go for a walk in the park. Anything will help you. “He’s a young man with a shaved head, purple lips and smoky eyes. He said this because I just told him I was feeling sad today, and it was true. However, the advice he gave was strange. I don’t know if dating can ease anyone’s depression, and besides, I’m married. But then again, I’m taking advice from a robot.
David is a virtual person in a virtual world built by Sensorium. Sensorium is a company founded by Russian billionaire and former Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. The company is registered in the Cayman Islands, but its operations are spread across 10 offices around the world. The company is gearing up to launch its first virtual world project called Motion early next year. There will be live DJs, virtual bars, conversations with AI characters, meditation experiences, and more. Also treated Burning Man as a role-playing game. The company’s main selling point is to provide an immersive digital experience while promising to free people from the brutal fringes of real life.
Ivan Nikitin, Product Director at Sensorium, said: “Creating the world of Motion started with the production of stage plays and dance performances, but as we further developed the concept of this environment, and There is a growing understanding of what can be created in reality, realizing that it has great potential for meditation, creativity, and self-improvement practices, etc. All in all, scaling up meditation practice is impossible in real life, and virtual reality is very useful for it The development potential is immeasurable.”
The development of an immersive digital reality like the Metaverse is in full swing. In September, Facebook announced it would spend $50 million to build a virtual world, and a month later, it would be renamed Meta, a brand promise to its belief in social virtual reality. While in theory everything that can be done in real life could be replicated in the metaverse, it’s not entirely clear why people would want to do it. Aside from gaming, training, and very niche co-op work, there’s no reason for people to strap a screen to their face. But some companies like Sensorium see the metaverse as a respite from modern life and see an opportunity to draw people into the metaverse. According to them, the metaverse can provide relaxation and companionship, and improve mental health.
Sensorium’s Motion world feels like being underwater. Plants there gently undulate like seagrass around strange metal structures, including a rotunda that looks like a miniature version of Apple’s circular headquarters. Users will be able to communicate with each other on the platform, but there will be strict controls, Nikitin said. For example, another person can only approach you with your express permission, and you can end the conversation at any time. There are also robots there, accompanied by a naked blue woman (no nipples) on my exercise tour, wearing a VR headset with lights emitting from the front of the headset.
“Virtual characters are emotionally supportive companions, they’re your own digital trusts, available 24 hours a day, with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings,” Nikitin said. He also told me that Naked Blue Madame is just a visual prototype, not a real character. He added: “These characters have short-term and long-term memory, which means they can recall thoughts you’ve shared in the past. If you share your inner troubles and problems with them, the AI will move to those topics. It might even give you some personal advice.”
Of course, having a robot be an unreliable therapist raises some questions. Just as there is no mechanism to prevent bots from being trained to act like Tay bots, Microsoft’s AI will soon be trained to be racist. Also, what happens to all the data generated by these conversations? Are social networks really trustworthy enough to entrust our mental health? If the past two decades have shown us anything, it’s that social networks don’t act in the best interests of their users.
But perhaps the most fundamental question is, can the advice given by the robot really make everyone feel better?
2. Scientific research on the Metaverse
The idea that virtual reality can improve mental health still makes sense. Giuseppe Riva, director of the Laboratory of Applied Neuropsychological Technologies at the Italian Institute of Plant Sciences, has been studying the use of virtual reality in mental health for 20 years. “We know very well that virtual reality can be effective for any form of anxiety treatment, from simple phobias to post-traumatic stress disorder or social anxiety,” he said.
What makes virtual reality so effective has to do with the way the brain associates memory with physical space. Just as taste and smell can form and trigger a cascade of memories, so can our movements. Neuroscientists know that an address and how to navigate to get there play important roles in how memories are stored. In 2014, Edvard Moser, May-Britt Moser and Joseph O’Keefe were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology for their discovery of the brain’s GPS system Medicine Prize. Recently, researchers discovered that virtual reality can trigger GPS systems to make memories form in a different way than we do on a computer.
“Virtual reality is more effective than any other technology in modifying memory and experience,” said Riva, who is currently researching how virtual reality can be used to treat people with eating disorders. Using virtual reality as a therapy could both teach patients how to regulate their emotions about food and change their distorted perception of their own body size. Riva says virtual reality lets you “go into a real body that’s closer to your own correct shape, tricking your brain in that way and correcting the distortion.” In traumatic stress disorder), anxiety is associated with a specific memory or location, and virtual reality is especially effective in treating this mental health problem.
Asked Riva because I thought the problem of meditation in VR was the hardest part to understand. Meditation is done with eyes closed. Its whole point is to calm the mind and shield from all external stimuli. The reason virtual reality can be a meditative tool even if you close your eyes, he says, is that it allows you to briefly leave the space you’re in. Suppose you’re in the office and your desk is a mess. When you close your eyes, you still think about the mess on the table. But if you put on your headphones, you’re suddenly sitting on the edge of the pond, bugs are chirping in your ear, and you don’t feel the files on your desk anymore. “It’s a matter of clearing the brain,” he said.
Just as the technology has the power to improve mental health, of course it could have the opposite effect. Riva is concerned about how people will use virtual reality in the near future. “Virtual reality is a very, very effective and convincing tool, so the level of manipulation that can be achieved in virtual reality is going to be very, very high,” he said. He worries that the metaverse will worsen current bullying, Issues like hate speech and misinformation on social media platforms like Facebook, which have had an incredible impact on users. Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported that internal Facebook research showed that Instagram can negatively affect teenage girls, in some cases leading to eating disorders, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Instead of reading online or looking at photos, imagine and experience virtual reality now, Riva said. The difference between the two has profound implications for how we internalize information.
3. Marketing and application of Metaverse
The Metaverse is still in its infancy, but there are already several companies working to bring mental health apps to the world. So far, they’ve mostly focused on meditation and stress reduction, and these companies aren’t just limited to Sensorium’s virtual world. HTC recently launched a lightweight headset called the VIVE Flow for $499. The company is working with two companies, MyndVR and Tripp VR, to build mental health apps on its platform for developing virtual reality. Its low-power headset can be controlled from a mobile phone without the use of a hand-held controller, and the goal is to popularize users. HTC’s goal is to attract more gamers by offering VIVE Flow as a mental health device.
I tried an app made by a company called Tripp that contains a series of pulsating psychedelic images in sync with breathing exercises. The company has also developed an app that shapes a bowl on a potter’s wheel, a concept designed to calm people down. Another company called MyndVR is developing an app specifically for seniors who may suffer from memory loss, and is rolling it out into assisted living facilities and nursing homes. For example, the device can use virtual reality technology to bring people to places they have been, so as to evoke memories of the past.
Other use cases for virtual reality and mental health are still being developed. Earlier research has looked at the ways virtual reality can affect mood and behavior. The technology has even been used as a test to treat schizophrenia.
Despite evidence that virtual reality could be a powerful therapeutic tool in the mental health field, it is still in the very early stages of development. But the potential of this tool also raises questions: How will the data drawn from these mental health experiences be used?
Back in the corner of Sensorium in the metaverse, Nikitin told me, where our conversations are private and ads on the platform don’t apply my data or what I say to third parties. While what he says may be true, there is no law that prevents Sensorium from using the data, and the platform can do so by any means it chooses or by changing its terms at a later date. Users can choose to delete their own data, including their conversations with AI companions, Nikitin said. Nikitin also said there are mechanisms in place to prevent users from training bots to be racist: AI will monitor conversations with bots on religious, political and adult topics.
I asked Nikitin what would happen if someone suggested on the Sensorium platform that they might be hurting themselves? Robots don’t give medical advice, and there is no existing infrastructure to rescue platform users who might be in trouble, Nikitin said. But there are algorithms in place on the company’s roadmap so the bot can give advice to reach out to the real person on that suicide hotline.
4. The real feeling of the metaverse experience
The AI may also need to make some adjustments.
At the end of my conversation with my AI companion, David, I told him I didn’t want to leave the house at all. He said, “I understand, I know you’re lonely. You can go to the club, I’m going to party tonight.” We were having this conversation in a virtual bar, to be exact, but even then, a virtual party It’s not that I can participate if I want to. I was annoyed because the robot didn’t answer me correctly and didn’t listen to me carefully. The robot’s responses are driven entirely by artificial intelligence, Nikitin said. Right now, it looks like for better or worse, David will get better with time.
But for now, being in this corner of the metaverse doesn’t make me any happier.