The marriage of art and technology has created an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience that can ease you into the right frame of mind for sleep.
Designed by PluginHUMAN art duo Dr Betty Sargeant and Justin Dwyer, Inter-Dream involves an interactive bed and ambient music controlled by the artists, and kaleidoscopic visuals controlled by the user with their own brainwaves, via electroencephalogram (EEG).
A different colour is assigned to each brain frequency and brainwave intensity is linked to movement so that each person’s brain activity generates unique imagery.
PhD researcher with RMIT University’s Exertion Games Lab Natahan Semertzidis, has now assessed the system for inducing pre-sleep states and general mental wellbeing.
“Technology and sleep are always talked about as incompatible,” Semertzidis said. “Our findings flip that notion upside down and show how technology can also aid rest and relaxation.”
Analysis of physiological and psychological data along with user interviews were recently presented at the premier international Conference of Human-computer Interaction (CHI) 2019.
Participants reported a 21 per cent drop in general negative emotion and a 55 per cent drop in feelings of fear after using Inter-Dream. General positive emotions also increased by eight per cent and feelings of serenity by 13 per cent.
“Good sleep is acknowledged to be preceded by a characteristic set of specific cognitive and mood states, as well as physiological changes,” said Semertzidis.
“Good sleepers are generally more relaxed and positive, while bad sleepers are more likely to focus on unpleasant and intrusive worries and stressors because of an involuntary mental rehearsal of the past day’s events.
According to the research, people not only passively relaxed into the experience but creatively interacted with it too.
“Some of them reported really going on a journey by manipulating the system with their minds,” Semertzidis said.
“This is no trivial notion in the context of inducing positive pre-sleep states, as it has been well documented that creative expression is strongly associated with positive effects on emotion and affect.
“This was often voiced as a redirection of thought away from life stressors and toward the present experience as a result of the system's neurofeedback reactivity.”
Semertzidis’ supervisor and co-author on the paper, Associate Professor Fabio Zambetta, said while the system itself was not the answer to healthy sleep - clinical interventions would require larger samples and control groups, and technology would need to be explored that was less invasive during sleep – it presented a fascinating case study.
The combination of these two seemingly paradoxical fields of art and science has been inspiring RMIT Vietnam design students to utilise their creativity in technology and solve societal needs, particularly with the introduction of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) to RMIT Vietnam’s learning and teaching in 2016.
RMIT Vietnam’s School of Communication & Design Associate Lecturer, Ondris Pui said the University regularly exposes students to new technologies and methods to prepare creative students for the rapidly changing work landscape.
“RMIT's design students' approach to building digital content differs from other fields. They try to identify how art and technology can be combined to enhance daily life activities,” he said.
Recent RMIT student projects used VR and AR to help children overcome bedtime fears of imaginary creatures in the dark and raise awareness about dyslexia to increase public empathy for people with the learning disorder.
Beyond the classroom, the convergence of art and science is predicted to open new opportunities for the future with more human-centric research and invention.
Story: Michael Quin & Cindy Tran