Can Stressjam Help us Control Work-Related Stress With the Help of Virtual Reality?

Combining virtual reality and biofeedback technology to help train players to regulate their own stress.

Jamzone, a Dutch tech and digital health company is combining psychology and virtual reality (VR) videogames to help people prevent and treat emotional or behavioural patterns. By combining VR and biofeedback technology, Jamzone has created a VR experience called Stressjam, which it showcased at CES 2018. During the event VRFocus spoke to Jozef Meerding, Chief Game Officer at Jamzone about the how the studio believes Stressjam can help individuals cope with stress at work.

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The cartoon-like game will ask you to do simple tasks, but to complete them you have to make yourself calm or stressed.

Meerding explains that most individuals believe and view stress as unhealthy, but new research has shown that individuals who believe that stress is actually good for your system, are actually healthier than those who don’t. Meerding is the game developer that’s designed Stressjam and has created a cartoon World of Warcraft-style videogame that is fun and immersive. The title asks users to put on a special waistband that measures their heart rate variability. The user then goes on a guided journey to solve puzzles or complete tasks by changing their state of mind from calm to stressed or vice versa. The videogame is essentially a toolkit that gives users real-time feedback on their heart rate and with that knowledge, trains users to change and finally control their state of mind. VRFocus gives a perspective with a hands on experience here.

Jamzone has had to test out Stressjam before and the results from the first study apparently have been AAA for usability and reliable data. Meerding, perhaps appropriately, compares the ability to change ones state of mind in relation to stress to riding a bicycle. Once you learn how to ride a bicycle, keep the wheels in motion, you won’t forget in the same way you train your mind how to recognise signs and coping mechanisms to dealing with stress. In other words you become self aware of your own stress system, and becoming aware of it enables you to regulate it. One of the pieces of feedback that’s given in a video where Nij Smellinghe hospital participants try out Stressjam is: “playing this game, gives me a good sense that stress can also be positive.”

At the moment Stressjam is being used in the Netherlands by companies who want to make their employees less stressed at work. The hope is that in future, employees are able to control their stress and enable them to be healthier in their state of mind, and thus work more efficiently. Jamzone are licensing Stressjam to companies that want to make their employee happier and less stressed for €20 EUR a month per employee or €2,000 a year. At the moment companies that want to use Stressjam need to have an HTC Vive headset as well as a PC or laptop that is VR ready and the waistband needed to play Stressjam. When asked about whether Stressjam was available for home users (or those who have a Steam and HTC Vive headset at home), Meerding said that this is a possibility for the future.

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Waistband that measures your heart rate variability, to measure stress.

Jamzone are a team of entrepreneurs, psychologists, digital health experts and game developers that are seeking to prevent and treat emotional or behaviour patterns through new emerging technologies. It seems they are doing well with Stressjam winning Product Digital Innovation of the Year Award in the Netherlands in 2017 and nominated for the Accenture Innovation Awards 2017. When asked about the next steps, Meerding says that at CES 2018, Jamzone was looking to find more investors to expand their company. The expansion would help them create more content, more levels and implement more scientific research in order to create a responsible way of managing stress levels.

Watch the video below to find out more.

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