Depression Alleviation Using Virtual Reality
Triloka blends three realms of the physical, virtual and spiritual world to help users address and overcome negative feelings result from depression. The user goes through a series of interactions that help him prevail over his loneliness, sadness, guilt, disinterest in daily activities, inability to concentrate, and the feeling of hopelessness.
Various environments including a forest where people share their stories around a bonfire; a virtual therapist who suggests activities to help them to overcome depression; an exciting canoeing encounter that brings back the user's interest in fun activities as well as a peaceful meditation experience on the top of a mountain. The soothing music and a mood reflecting sky are also added to the therapeutic experience to make users feel relaxed and peaceful.
Depression is a mood disorder with distressing symptoms that negatively affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the most common illness worldwide. They estimate that 350 million people are affected by depression, globally.
Losing a friend who suffer from depression a few days ago made me lost in deep thought. Though there are multiple therapies to help depression patients, the fact is, most patients are UNWILLING to accept the diagnosis of depression and thus will not accept any treatment. They are prone to mislabel pretreatment symptoms as drug-related after beginning on antidepressants, or fearing it to be too intrusive, complicated, lengthy and expensive. There are multiple helplines and chatbots to help people with depression, but the fear of your identity being revealed or being judged causes most victims to hesitate. Moreover, the unfriendly platform on which it is carried out also serves as a hindrance for people to open up.
Therefore, we hope Triloka, an immersive Virtual Reality experience could serve as a truthworthy companion for depression patients, help them to speak out their challenges and problems, regain the interests of daily activities and meditate to get inner peace.
The negative feelings faced and the way they are tackled:
- Loneliness: Meeting new people around the campfire and opening up without the fear of being judged or having preconceptions
- Sadness: Lulling soft music in the background that calms the user
- Guilt: Listening to how other people overcame their depression and trying to empathize them
- Lack of Interest in daily activities: Energetic activities like canoeing can revitalise the mind
- Difficulty concentrating: Meditation session on the top of the mountain surrounded by sea
- Hopelessness: Motivating and engaging incentives like unlocking more environments if postive thoughts are spoken, slowly giving hope
The major aspect of this project that we spent most of our time building was the environments and the models associated with it. We imported free 3D models from the online website free3D.com and customised them to our requirements using the student version of Autodesk Maya. All the character animations and terrain systems were built using Maya and Unity engine to bring about a realistic VR experience. At the beginning, we brainstormed together to create and structure the environments and interactions to make it realistic. We hope users can treat Triloka as a friend who will ultimately help assuage depression.
Free third party usages: Microsoft Speech API / IBM Watson Tone anayser / Oculus SDK / fbchat library / SkyBox 1.0 / Simple Dynamic Cloud / PBR Ground Material
We used Microsoft Speech API for the conversion of speech to text and vice-versa. It is aimed for conversing with the specialized (for depression) facebook bot and return the responses in voice using text to speech. Besides, IBM Watson's Tone Analyzer was used to track the user's mood. The following are the conversations we simulated between depression patient and the virtual therapist.
The future for Triloka will involve real-time implementation of the talk-bots which allows the user to choose, if he prefers, to talk to an actual therapist or a virtual one. Besides, we hope to integrate more interactive functions by using controllers (such as teleportation and manipulation). We are also excited to release this to the real world market and see how people react to this interactive experience. It would give us inspiring ideas to improve upon in Triloka 2.0.