Visual respiratory feedback in Virtual Reality exposure therapy: A pilot study

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Mevlevioğlu, Deniz
Murphy, David
Tabirca, Sabin
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Association for Computing Machinery
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As the use of Virtual Reality (VR) expands across fields, new kinds of interaction methods are introduced. This study presents the Visual Heights VR experience that integrates natural breathing as an input method to provide visual respiratory feedback. Incorporating spatial audio, haptic feedback and breath visualisation, the experience aims to be highly immersive. This experience was made to be used as part of a controlled pilot study to see the effect of respiratory feedback on the user’s anxiety levels. The user’s anxiety is assessed by their heart rate, brain electrical activity, skin conductance and respiratory rate. These biosignals are recorded within the experience; captured by external hardware. The pieces of hardware used were Galvanic Skin Response to measure skin conductance, photoplethysmogram to measure heart rate; Electroencephalogram to measure the electrical activity in the brain, and a prototype device that records airflow on an axis from -1 to 1 for respiratory rate. It was found that the aforementioned prototype was not sufficient for calculating the respiratory rate. Results of the controlled study showed that the Visual Heights VR experience delivered the expected positive correlation between skin conductance and perceived height (r=.491, p < .05, N=1543) which suggests it is plausible to be used as a material for further research. As the integration of user’s physiological signals and breathing for visual feedback can contribute to therapeutic uses of VR, research with bigger sample sizes will be conducted to better investigate the relationship between visual respiratory feedback and anxiety using the Visual Heights VR experience.
Biosensors , Biosignals , VR , Exposure therapy , Anxiety , GSR , PPG , EEG
Mevlevioğlu, D., Murphy, D. and Tabirca, S. (2021) 'Visual respiratory feedback in Virtual Reality exposure therapy: A pilot study', IMX '21: ACM International Conference on Interactive Media Experiences, NY, USA, 21 - 23 June, pp. 1-6. doi: 10.1145/3452918.3458799