September 12, 2022
What is Mindy?
Mindy is a VR experience that combines concepts from mindfulness, self-reflection, self-dialogue, and binaural beats. The design of the experience is to allow oneself to introspect on their thoughts and emotions in a safe, calm space while being led to discover or process unknown parts of themselves.
Who am I?
I’m Sean Hagstrom, the lead Designer and Developer of the project. Mindy was my final research project for my Masters Degree in Virtual Reality, and took roughly 4 months for me to complete. During that time I also performed all the essential background research, play-testing, and data analysis for the project.
Why make Mindy?
Mindy was born from a desire to create a personal realm for people to instrospect upon themselves. I noticed from personal experience that I greatly appreciated having the mental space to listen to my inner self and decipher my thoughts and feelings. But at the time it seemed that sharing that experience was difficult since it seemed to require a decent amount of practice and experience with forms of meditation or therapy. The goal of Mindy was to provide a suite of tools to help people sense a deeper message from within by voicing their thoughts and feelings in real-time. Most importantly, Mindy also wanted to create a space for people to feel calm and relaxed while thinking or feeling into deep questions or topics, so it was very important to support people by providing a carefully designed experience that soothed anxiety and stress. If Project Mindy is successful it will be released to the public as a companion experience that people can use whenever they feel they need some space to see inside themselves.
How was it made?
Mindy was using the Unity 3D game engine and the Unity XR toolkit. The project was designed and prototyped over a couple of months with several checkpoints in functionality regarding the audio and visual experience of the app. Prior to the development the project was carefully researched based on the relevant published literature and existing applications. Throughought the development process I would check in with my supervisor to ensure things were moving along smoothly with the project’s timeline. By the third month into development I had already started play-testing the app and refining the user interface and experience. By the last month I started collecting official data samples from participants who participated in a qualitative and quantitative survey of the app. In the end I presented the results of my findings to my supervisors and peers, and I explained the probable causes of the outcome.
If you’d like to see a demonstration of Mindy’s audio visualisation functionality then watch this video.
Overall I’m proud of Mindy and consider it a success. The results of my research showed that there’s significant (or nearly significant) data to suggest the experience is calming, has meditative qualities, and promotes a healthy curiosity or introspection. However, the results of the experiment were not sufficient to say with complete certainty that Mindy is significantly better than a non-VR experience. In the future, I would like to continue this project by refining the functionality based on the surveyed feedback, and create a new study that attempts to compare Mindy to alternatives.
If you’re interested in learning more, here’s a link to my thesis.