“That’s the big push–having people understand that [Virtual Reality] is something that can help with wellness,” ASLMU’s Vice President of Student Wellness Bailey Woinarowicz said, as she enthusiastically explains her fascination with both health and technology. Her passion has inspired the launch of a new Virtual Reality (VR) headset in the FitWell Center this past April, but the headset begins to gain traction this year.
Located on the first floor of the Burns Recreation Center, this Meta VR Headset includes a painting application in which students can simulate painting in a virtual environment. The application includes various forms of paint, such as spray paint, paint balloons, and more. Students may sign up online for a 15 minute session.
After the VR Headset launched in April, little marketing was done for the new resource, and fewer and fewer students signed up to utilize it. As ASLMU has now pushed for increased use, six students have signed up to utilize the headset this week alone.
“Most people know what VR is, but they don’t know VR in the sense of this particular benefit,” Woinarowicz said.
Woinarowicz was first inspired to bring VR to LMU through her summer 2022 internship. She interned for the Children’s Hospital of Orange County through the Medical Intelligence and Innovation Institute. During an extended reality (XR) event, the tech company MaestroSPC Games brought their version of VR to the hospital, introducing her to the idea of VR for wellness.
“At the XR event, [the company] said they did this study where they brought in different VR headsets for NICU nurses, and the study found that even for five minutes during their shift 85% of the nurses felt they were less stressed and less anxious during their shift,” Woinarowicz said.
Woinarowicz then pitched the idea of implementing VR into the LMU campus for wellness and alleviating stress. She first thought to partner with MaestroSPC Games itself, bringing the CEO into her pitch meeting with LMU Administration.
“All of the administrators in that room got to try the VR headset and thought it was really cool,” Woinarowicz said. “Ultimately everyone thought it was a great idea, but the money was a big issue.”
As a solution, Woinarowicz instead decided to implement a Meta VR Headset. Meta ultimately cost less than MaestroSPC Games and provided more application options for students.
“We thought let’s just try buying a Meta headset, research the apps that we can purchase, and see how that goes,” Woinarowicz said. “Honestly that’s the route we took, and I think it works better because we have more options for students to do more engaging games. There’s a student who works in FitWell who is now in charge of researching new games we can add to the headset.”
Senior Johnnes Kromminga was introduced to the VR headset through a friend in ASLMU and was immediately intrigued. Kromminga was unfamiliar with VR technology, but decided to sign up regardless.
“It was a lot more like a game than I realized,” Kromminga said. “Getting the hang of the controls in the alternate reality was kind of a game in itself, which made it more fun than I expected.”
Despite Kromminga’s initial apprehension, he found that the simulation not only improved his wellness, but provided a sort of escape from the stressful environment of college.
“What stood out to me was that after I took it off and was back in the real world, that was when I really noticed the wellness aspect of it,” Kromminga said. “I didn’t really realize how immersive it was until it was done.”
After students utilize the headset, they are then asked to complete a survey detailing their experience, which is sent directly to Woinarowicz. “They all say they kind of forget what they are doing or forget where they are–that’s the whole point of it,” Woinarowicz said. “It removes you from the stressful environment of college.”
Sign up to use the VR headset at https://calendly.com/d/2t5-x6s-7xf/vr-wellness-initiative-sign-ups?month=2023-08