In recent years, research has continuously confirmed the usefulness and efficacy of meditation, including its ability to alleviate anxiety, control depression, lessen stress, and produce a host of other health-related benefits.
Many firms are involved in making meditation more readily available. Merlin Digital, an electronics and digital technology company based in Dubai, has introduced IntelliSense: a meditation gadget that utilizes virtual reality (VR) and heart rate variability (HRV) to help people achieve a more relaxed and peaceful state.
HRV closely reflects the activity of the autonomic nervous system and the body’s stress response.
IntelliSense is a small, rectangular device that connects to an ear-clip heart rate sensor; it arrives in a basic cardboard box that varies from the sleek, modern approach that many of today’s startups have invariably adapted.
The heart rate sensor fits comfortably: it clips securely to the user’s earlobe, without applying a great deal of pressure. Once clipped to the earlobe, the heart rate sensor will automatically turn on and begin tracking the user’s heart rate.
Because the IntelliSense does not provide a VR headset, the consumer must purchase one. “Before your initial use, you download the IntelliSense HRV free app on your Android or iOS device, plug in your personal information, and select your desired settings, such as your background music – 8 choices in all – as well as your breathing type and difficulty level,” notes a reviewer from Medgadget.
The IntelliSense HRV app is not difficult to use; the home screen includes an icon to check the heart sensor connectivity, and choices to select from three VR scenes: Serene Oasis, Sea of Tranquility, or Valley of Flowers. The user can also track his/her personal history and progress from the home screen, and compare scores to other IntelliSense users from around the world. Moreover, the heart rate monitor is compatible with other fitness apps like MapMyRun and Strava.
In order to begin a meditation session, the user connects the heart rate sensor to the ear, selects A VR scene, slips a smartphone into a 3D VR headset, and puts it on. Once the session begins, a faint, unobtrusive circular breathing indicator appears in the center of the VR scene. The ultimate goal is to inhale as the circle expands, and exhale as it collapses, in order to help control and optimally pace breathing.
According to the reviewer, “By focusing on breathing with the circle, I found that my thoughts did not seem to wander as much as they have in the past whenever I have tried to meditate. I think that staring at a peaceful VR scene versus the back of my eyelids also helped minimize distracting thoughts.”
IntelliSense utilizes HRV to provide users with real-time feedback on performance via intermittent written cues, and through the accrual of color-coded blocks around the rim of the breath circle as time elapses—which helps users refine their mental state. As users become calmer, so too does the visual and auditory aspects of the VR environment (i.e. the wind dies down, birds fly and chirp, shooting stars appear, etc).
The reviewer stated: “Overall, the graphics are pleasant and relaxing, but appear rudimentary and unrealistic. Given the advancement in VR over the last few years, I was expecting the graphics to be of higher quality. Another drawback is the lack of voice-guided instruction, if users would like to close their eyes while meditating.”
The reviewer concluded that the IntelliSense achieves what it originally sets out to do, in that it helps users learn how to attain a more relaxed and focused meditative state. “We find the idea of using 3D VR and real-time biofeedback to help users reap the benefits of meditation very exciting. However, we believe that both the quality of the app design and graphics have room for improvement, as those would make IntelliSense more competitive in this novel market.”