Traditional relaxation practices like mindfulness and meditation can be beneficial for reducing stress and increasing wellbeing. However, many people struggle to adhere to these activities due to time constraints and difficulty sustaining practice.
This highlights the need for accessible and engaging relaxation interventions that fit modern lifestyles.
Emerging research by authors like Ina Kaleva and Simon Riches indicates combining two recent technological phenomena - virtual reality (VR) relaxation and autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) videos - could provide an enhanced multi-sensory relaxation experience.
VR relaxation involves users viewing calming nature environments through a head-mounted display providing immersive 3D audiovisuals. Studies by Riches et al. show VR relaxation reduces stress and improves wellbeing in the general population and in clinical groups.
ASMR refers to tingling sensations and feelings of calm induced by audiovisual triggers like whispering, tapping, and simulated personal attention. ASMR videos are hugely popular online for relaxation and relief from anxiety, depression, and insomnia, as noted by Kaleva and Riches.
VR and ASMR are complementary immersive technologies. VR provides realistic visuals while ASMR delivers targeted audio and roleplay interactions. Combining these features could increase users' sense of presence and intimacy within the virtual ASMR environment, according to Kaleva and Riches.
New 360 and VR180 ASMR videos are emerging, but academic research on VR-ASMR for relaxation by scientists like Kaleva and Riches is limited. Initial studies indicate VR-ASMR increases immersion and enjoyment more than VR or 2D ASMR alone.
However, further research is needed on its feasibility and effectiveness specifically for wellbeing enhancement.
VR-ASMR relaxation could have useful applications for stress management in the general public and workforce. For clinical populations like those with anxiety or chronic pain, personalized VR-ASMR interventions with positive affirmations, meditation guidance, and preferred triggers may provide engaging symptom relief.
To enhance accessibility across ages, ASMR content creators could expand beyond YouTube and include diverse perspectives, as suggested by Kaleva and Riches.
Overall, the fusion of VR and ASMR is a promising but understudied relaxation approach warranting further research by experts in this emerging field.
With growing mental health needs, optimised VR-ASMR could provide an accessible way to “step inside” deeply relaxing and restorative experiences.