Esqapes immersive relaxation combines VR with massage therapy to give people the ability to relax at their favorite vacation destination.
Harrison Hill, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES â€”Â Imagine stepping out of your office ontoÂ your own private island or a secluded Japanese garden, and coming back a half-hour later relaxed and revived, ready to continue your day.Â
Thatâ€™s the idea behind Esqapes Immersive Relaxation â€“ a virtual reality experience that replicates a day-spa and transports you to another world away from troubles and burdens, even if only for 30 minutes at a time.Â
To get to Esqapes, it took zig-zagging through a Los Angeles office building, asking a security guard where to go and taking a secret elevator to a nondescript door; a journey symbolic of leaving the world behind you. Behind that door, you step into a serene garden that is also colorful and bright, yet relaxing, unlike the mundane, bleak hallway you just left behind. Itâ€™s enough to feel like you are in a different dimension â€“ an appropriate settingÂ to escape reality.Â
Michah Jackson, a former game producer at Disney, said he created the programs and spa environment so people could make time in their daily routine to unwind â€“ hence their location in an office building.Â
â€œI think a lot of times when youâ€™re caught up in work and daily responsibilities, you donâ€™t make time for yourself to go somewhere and relax, or you wait until you have that vacation window,â€ said Jackson. â€œI think something like this is like a quick getaway to something that will help you mentally to calm down and take a break for a moment.â€
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Unlike traditional spas, there are no massage tables, no blankets, no need to change out of your clothes; you just step into a high-end massage chair and put on a pair of VR goggles and noise-canceling headphones.Â
You can choose one of 10 handcrafted experiences â€“ from a pool in the middle of the desert to a remote cabin in the snowy mountains â€“ and you feel as if you have left that hidden door far behind and climbed through a portal to a world of pure fantasy.
Not only do you see and hear the world you are in, but you also can smell and feel it. The tropical island smells of oranges and you can feel the heat of the sun warming your skin, all while your body is being relaxed by a massage. It is meant to feel private and luxurious, yet it only costs $45.
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Jacksonâ€™s reasoning for opening a VR spa can also be applied to therapy â€“ VR allows you to focus on what is happening inside the goggles and not on your actual reality. Padilla says youâ€™re more impressionable in these scenarios, which is why itâ€™s effective.
Therapy is just one area of medical treatment where VR is being used and will be incorporated in the future.
â€œItâ€™s a very strong area, and I think as developers become more sophisticated with their skills, there will be a lot of content in this area and you will see a lot more of this in hospitals and health care institutions and therapists as well as used at home by consumers,â€ Padilla said.Â
If you would like to bring VR into your home, there are apps for meditation, stress relief, health and more available on iOS, Android and other personal devices. You can find a list of them at renewvr.com, Padillaâ€™s website for nonviolent VR apps.
VR headsets can be found onlineÂ and, depending on what you’re looking for them to do, can range from less than $10 to several hundred dollars.
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