Particle Capsule: Binaural, VR Headset for Relaxation – Sketchbook Friday

This weeks Sketchbook Friday explores the notion of inducing relaxation in the Alpha to Delta brain wave ranges. Featuring core hardware designed to output deep visual and auditory simulations the Particle Capsule might be used to encourage rest states, as an supplementary alternative to more internally focused mediation practices that most would likely prefer without as little distraction as possible.

Sensory Relaxation

As we take a look at the sketchbook ideas, the Particle Capsule initially began as a box like form designed to immerse the user on all three sides. My reasoning for this concept was simply to alter the users state with a sense of being closed in or shut off from the outside world.

Have you ever put a pillow over your head to block out external disturbances for example? Even if the sound is not necessarily blocked out I would argue there’s still some level of placebo effect encouraging greater levels of rest, I know from personal experience external sounds are often unavoidable.

Peripherals for Stimulus Input

Following from sketch (A), (B) integrates media peripherals such as video and speakers, this functionality would however be more directed towards relaxation than meditation. illustration (C) then suggests directional sound which might offer a unique experience to headphones or even speakers which are typically played from a distance.

One consideration is that the initial design is not very convenient for actual functional applications (e.g. web browsing or using apps), even basic navigation might be inconvenient. Instead of relying on touch (D) explores the notion instead of utilising voice search, thus navigation can be done hands free in fully relaxed state which out having to break sleep paralysis (body sleep)..

Virtual Reality Relaxation Experience

One of the key areas I wanted to focus on was adding a sense of “real” immersion as noted in sketches (H) and (G). To achieve this effect quality frequence precision (especially bass) might provide rumbling deep sound whilst also invoking a stronger vibrational sense onto the user.. To supplement the auditory experience, screens might also project images of videos similar to that of mobile “live wallpapers”. Even users that prefer to meditate or relax with eyes closed might benefit from subtle transitions of colour behind closed eyes.

Vibrational Sound and Binaurals

Binaural sound can of course be implemented into the audio experience, this type of sound is known for it’s ability to affect the users neurological state. The Particle Capsule might be used in 5 alternatives states providing different effects for each level of conscious awareness. Here’s a quick breakdown of the various brain wave cycles binaural (stereo) frequencies can help induce; Gamma (High Perception) > (Beta (awake) > Alpha (Relaxed) > Theta (Meditation) > Delta (Sleep).

I have actually read a few studies that argue the ineffectiveness on binaural, much like subliminal messaging the effects are still largely up for debate. From my personal experience however I occasionally like to employ binaurals into my meditations to at the very least keep things fresh. After all I’m a big proponent of encouraging perception in as many shapes and forms as possible.

Enhancing the concepts design

The standard box (I) or capsule shape (J) is perhaps adequate however if we’re being adventurous it would be interesting to merge multiple screens or to curve one singular screen. This would eliminate corners and breaks in the the visual experience. Another interesting thought would be to replace the screens with RGB(Red, Blue, Green) LED’s, for example simulating stars out in the distance. This might even influence our Delta brain states by invoking a natural sense of stars, considering for a large part of human history we would have sleep under the stars. If we’re programmed to fear dangerous animals, I would argue we’re also programmed to benefit from immersion in what we perceive to be relaxed settings.

Sensory Output and Headset Concepts

In (S) I thought my Capsule concept might also have potential in regards to the visualisation of the physiological data. Sensors located on the body could feed the capsule with data such as the users heart rate, and of course visualized in real-time through the headset as a HUD system. Towards the end (R) (Q) I then realized perhaps a standard VR headset would provide a more suitable hardware solution. The key focus for me personally would however be the auditory experience, whether it be the simulation a thunder storms or relaxing waves on a beach strong rumbling sounds would prove extremely effective at simulation calm environments.

Final thoughts

In hindsight this project is a fun concept but it certainly wouldn’t replace the natural state of meditation in complete darkness/silence. Instead I decided to rethink the capsule as more of an aid for states of relaxation, perhaps promoting interval breaks from work or study. It’s questionable whether or not electronic technology is the right tool for altering states of conscious, considering how effect one can be with practice. However I also realize ideas such as the Particle Capsule might promote more development in an area I consider of key importance, it’s well know stress is a major contributor to shortened life spans.

So what do you think of the idea? Leave a comment and as with all Sketchbook Fridays editions, popular ideas continue to receive further updates.