New Technology 

Mental Health & Wellbeing

Brooklyn, December 2023

With new wearable technology such as the Apple Vision Pro set to revolutionize how we integrate new technologies in our everyday life, my approach with immersive projects blending the physical and virtual to improve well-being and presence (Project: BEING in Bed, 2023), is more relevant than ever. I am continuously exploring the implications new technologies such as Virtual Reality can have on mental health and education for humans - for the better. 

Excessive online activity is causing cybersickness, a term for the negative effects of prolonged screen time. The emergence of the unregulated metaverse, immersive new technology, or the internet in general poses a potential threat, amplifying these symptoms. 

While only 38% of global consumers are familiar with the metaverse, 21% of US consumers express concerns about Web3's impact. With mental health issues on the rise and Gen Z showing a less positive outlook but heightened interest in virtual worlds, alternative treatments within the gaming space are emerging. Digital therapeutics like VR exposure therapy are addressing anxiety in a controlled environment, with the VR healthcare market projected to reach $3.9 billion by 2027.
Considering brands but mostly spatial designers have a part to play in creating virtual worlds and stories and that have an ethical benefit to our well-being.


As the metaverse advances, concerns about its implications are rising, with 41% of global consumers expressing worries about its impact on mental health. While the metaverse allows users to explore identities through avatars, widespread adoption may lead to 'phantom timeline syndrome,' blurring the lines between physical and virtual existence.

Early research suggests a potential link between extended virtual lives and psychoses like hallucinations and delusions. Addiction to virtual worlds poses risks, requiring companies to set limits on recommended usage time. Psychologists fear that issues from social media, such as harassment and self-esteem problems, may intensify in the metaverse.

In December, the Center for Countering Digital Hate deemed the metaverse unsafe for kids, citing incidents of abusive behavior on Meta's VR app VRChat. Gen Alpha, growing up in the metaverse, may face challenges in distinguishing virtual from real due to underdeveloped prefrontal cortex responsible for memory and attention, warns neuroscientist Thomas Baumgartner.


Propelled by the compounded collective trauma of the past two years, mental health conditions are expected to become the primary global cause of mortality by 2030. Immersive solutions offer a potential means to alleviate these challenges and democratize access to care.

With the global digital therapeutics market projected to reach $6.904 billion by 2025 and an increase in mental health conditions, innovative startups are emerging with immersive solutions for digital mental health treatment. Clinical trials have shown that VR can reduce anxiety in young patients undergoing medical procedures, and meta-analyses indicate that VR experiences can evoke compassion and enhance empathy.

UK-based VR startup Anomie addresses the stigma around seeking mental health support by developing a VR app for easy care access in the metaverse. Anomie plans to launch pop-up stores across various virtual worlds for users to receive digital remote therapy. Another startup, Austin-based Rey, introduced a mental wellness platform offering VR therapy sessions for social anxiety, resulting in a 38% decrease in anxiety over six weeks for patients who underwent automated VR therapy.

Miami-founded startup Ei.Ventures is introducing a digital innovation to psychedelic therapy. In January, the company disclosed its acquisition of a parcel of land in The Sandbox, where practitioners can host individuals and offer sessions involving psychedelic therapy.

Games are increasingly recognized as a favorable arena for addressing mental health issues, as these recreational and communal spaces provide assistance during challenging times. In March, DeepWell Digital Therapeutics, a gaming startup based in Seattle, revealed plans to create video games addressing mental health concerns from 2023 onwards. Video game-based tools have demonstrated effectiveness in managing conditions like ADHD and depression. Another trend is the ascent of neurogaming, where neuroscience principles are applied to games. Platforms such as XRHealth offer virtual treatment spaces for therapy related to autism, anxiety, chronic pain, and stress.

As we all move our lifes more into the digital, designers and also brands should explore new solutions and sweet escapes in the digital (that maybe bring us back to the physical essential - as I speculated with BEING in Bed). Virtual escapes that can counter some of the negativity of these worlds and protect us from the pitfalls of spending too much time online but use it meaningful to increase the moment of presence and re-discover longer attentionspans through multisensorial and multidimensional storytelling for contemplation, education and immersion (...).


Early resaearch is showing the potential benefits of VR mental health therapies. We should further explore and democratize these digital solutions for the ethical and improved everyday life - but not the exploitation of time and overstimulation of escapes and information overloads.

*all Images are produced by Annabelle using AI (#Midjourney), Pinterest and Collages.