This study investigated whether watching a relaxing 360° beach video in virtual reality (VR) or on a computer screen helped to reduce stress. The researchers measured stress levels and perceived relaxation in participants. Results showed that the 360° beach video/VR condition induced greater relaxation compared to a standard computer monitor or a control condition without a video.
KEYWORDS - 360° Nature Video | Monoscopic 360° video | Virtual Relaxation | Virtual Nature | Immersion | Mental Health | Relaxation | Well-being
The study by Knaust and colleagues, is based on the Attention Restoration Theory by Kaplan and the Stress Reduction Theory by Ulrich that demonstrate that exposure to nature is beneficial to reduce stress. While exposure to real nature is widely accepted to have stress-reducing and mood-enhancing effects, access to real natural environments is sometimes limited, for example for people who live in big cities, those that are confined by e.g. lock-downs during the Covid-19 pandemic or those that are otherwise in isolated and confined environments, such as hospitals, age-care facilities, etc. Hence, such people who cannot access nature, may benefit from virtual nature presented in a VR headset. This study set out to test the effectiveness of watching a 360° nature video in a VR headset, for relaxation purposes.
The study by Knaust et al. “examined whether a monoscopic 360° beach video presented with a HMD (Head-mounted Display aka VR headset) is significantly more relaxing than the same video presented via a PC screen, or no video at all.” The video that was used in the study was a 5-minute version of the 7-minute clip Beautiful Hidden Bay Beach Waves Close Up‘ from the 450+ clips strong Atmosphaeres 360 stock video library. The researchers presented the beach video in either a VR headset (HTC Vive) or on a regular PC monitor to 102 participants in a counterbalanced, randomized, controlled, within-subjects study design. There was also a control condition in which study participants sat quietly at the desk for five minutes without listening to any sounds and with the PC monitor turned off.
In line with the researchers’ hypotheses, “the HMD condition was rated significantly more relaxing than the other conditions, with no significant differences between the PC and control condition.” In other words, study participants were more relaxed after they watched the 360° beach video in the VR headset than after they watched it on the PC monitor. Additionally, and surprisingly, “the PC condition was not perceived as significantly more relaxing than the control condition”, which means that watching the beach video on the PC monitor had no benefit over sitting quietly at the desk with no visual stimulation. Thus, it does not matter, in terms of a relaxation effect, whether stressed people who need a break just sit at their desk with the monitor turned off or watch a nature video on the screen. However, to achieve a significantly higher level of relaxation, watching a 360° nature video in a VR headset is very beneficial.
The research study by Knaust and colleagues shows that taking a 5-minute break by watching a 360° beach video in a VR headset is significantly more relaxing than watching the same beach video on a PC screen or sitting in silence. An additional literature review in the same article also showed no clear difference in positive/negative affect between real and virtual natural environments. While some studies found differences, others didn’t. This, together with the results from another study by Browning et al., who showed that virtual nature can be just as effective as real nature in terms of relaxation, means that if we want to reduce stress and regain productivity, we can either go out into nature or, if this is not possible, watch 360° nature videos in a VR headset, to achieve a similarly relaxing effect.
This is also good news for employers who want to help their staff to relax from work-related stress. Using a VR headset and monoscopic 360° nature videos can be a quick relaxation option for employees who don’t have access or the time to go into a real nature setting. While computer-created nature environments and stereoscopic 360° videos are rather laborious and costly to create as well as complex to implement, monoscopic 360° nature videos are easy to acquire and implement, especially when using 360° stock footage, which is highly cost-effective compared to producing a 360° videos on demand. So monoscopic 360° videos offer a higher level of realism and are more cost-effective than computer-created nature environments. In comparison to stereoscopic 360° videos, monoscopic 360° videos are likewise cheaper and faster to produce, acquire and license. Furthermore, monoscopic 360° videos are smaller in size, easier to implement and compatible with more devices, compared to stereoscopic 360° videos.
If you are considering offering your employees a quick, cost-effective and proven relaxation option with monoscopic 360° nature videos for VR headsets, then you can start by taking a look at our 360° stock video library or get in touch with us for a free consultation.
WHO IS USING 360/VR?
Sphaeres VR Experiences are used by hospitals, healthcare organizations, senior-care facilities, wellness app developers, and many more. The meditations have also found application in the transportation industry, where they are used in airplanes, on buses, and in waiting areas such as airport lounges and doctor’s offices. Patient and user feedback is very positive and more details about different business applications for Sphaeres VR Experiences are available here.
360° VIDEOS AND VR EXPERIENCES FOR YOUR USERS
If you want to provide your audience with 360° Videos and VR Experiences that are proven to reduce stress, provide relaxation and restore attention, you can find a large collection of over 450 individual 360° nature and travel scenes here and 22 edited VR Experiences here. If you have any questions or would like review samples of any of our videos, please contact us.
ACADEMIA & NON-PROFIT
For registered research organizations that want to further investigate the effectiveness of 360° videos to reduce stress as well as increase relaxation and improve mood of VR users we offer a 30% academic discount on top of all volume discounts for the royalty-free 360 stock videos. Our Sphaeres VR Experiences are free to use in their original, unaltered form for all non-commercial, strictly academic research. If you have any questions about the 360 video license conditions or would like review samples of any of our 360 stock videos or VR Experiences, please contact us.
Citation: Knaust, T., Felnhofer, A., Kothgassner, O.D. et al. Exposure to virtual nature: the impact of different immersion levels on skin conductance level, heart rate, and perceived relaxation. Virtual Reality 26, 925–938 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10055-021-00595-2
Conflict of Interest Declaration: While this study used one or more of Atmosphaeres’ 360 VR Experiences or stock videos, the study was conducted fully independently by the study authors and without any involvement of the video creators Eric & Susanne Fassbender (Atmosphaeres).
Disclaimer: This summary was created with the help of AI writing tools. The content may therefore not always be entirely accurate. We assume no responsibility for any false or incorrect information provided in this article. It is essential to independently verify the content in the original publication which is linked in the citation section above.
AT A GLANCE
What was studied?
The study examined the effects of presenting a 360° beach scene in a Virtual Reality headset on relaxation.
What methods were used?
A counterbalanced, randomized, controlled, within-subject design was used to compare the effects of presenting a 360° beach video through a 6DoF HMD, a standard computer monitor, and a control condition without a video. Skin conductance level (SCL), heart rate (HR), and perceived relaxation were measured.
What were the results?
Presenting a 360° beach video through a 6DoF HMD induced significantly greater relaxation compared to a standard computer monitor or a control condition without a video, as measured by perceived relaxation.
What is the Conclusion?
Presenting virtual nature environments through immersive technology can induce relaxation, which has potential implications for stress management and mental health interventions. However, further research is needed to explore the underlying mechanisms and long-term effects of using virtual nature as a relaxation tool.