Serenity (Augmented Reality App)

Serenity is an AR app for reducing stress through a focus on nature rather than a human avatar and is driven by creating reliance on user senses through binaural and meditative sounds and visual queues. The main focus was researching and learning how to use interactive tools to create an emotional relationship between the app and user. In relation to research methods, I learned how to make personas, do literature reviews, and do market research. For this project, I worked Shivam Patel, a student in Computer Science and Engineering.

The Project Space…

College students every day are facing the pressure of adapting to living independently, their education, jobs, and family. Now, with COVID, stress has been increasing as people are being forced to stay inside. After talking to Professor Yvette Shen, studies have shown that music is one of the most sought out solutions for stress. Meditation is one of the things students would love to try but do not know where to start. We have sought to combine these into an interactive experience that promotes the wellbeing of students through an immersive AR experience. Our app is looking at utilizing the capabilities of AR to extend the world and offer a tool that helps manage everyday stress more effectively and conveniently than typical mediums such as guided meditations or just music. Our hypothesis is that through a transportation of nature into an indoor space combined with specific music and meditations, students can reduce their stress levels more than they could with alternative methods such as pure audio or guided meditation.

Below are the initial sketches I did to start visualizing the space of our application as well as how the user interacts. Right away, a home screen allows new users to access how the space works. Old users can hop right into the space and begin meditation. All users also have access to additional resources that can allow them complete control over their times of stress. Through this app, an interactive garden – based off of Japanese gardens –  is mapped into the desired spot of the user. Rocks become buttons to channel music. The pond becomes a guide to breathing. The tree and wind chimes help you to unlock a state of serenity. 

Building Serenity…

For this project, I created 3D models in Maya, which were transferred to Unity to be used with Vuforia to create an AR application.

When designing the space, I started out with a more round representation of a tree. However, the design shifted to feel more grounded in reality.

Shivam Patel handled working with the project in Unity, where he created the pages for the application, integrated the models, and created the different buttons to activate sound and lights. One thing we both worked on was the animation for the breathing and how to handle lighting. The first animation that Patel was able to implement in Unity was just a slow guided breathing; however, after a suggestion in class, we went with box breathing for more control. Since we wanted the application to also integrate with the surroundings, instead of just a single lighting, we went with a day and night setting seen in the second image below.

Final Product…

Here is the guide on how to use the application.

The potential impact of the project is that it can offer a convenient and effective stress reduction method to students. By providing the opportunity for students to combine sound therapies with meditation while surrounded with nature visible through the phone, we hope this application will be effective in helping students cope with stressful times at school during the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, a lot of apps associated with this area are done in VR. One of our goals being to discover the impacts of AR and the ability to create successful immersive environments for the user. 

Below is a demonstration of our final project done by Shivam Patel.

Questions Raised…

  1. How does sound enhance an interactive experience?
  2. Can you develop a successful immersive environment outside VR in an AR world?
  3. How can you create a personal experience without the use of an avatar?
  4. Can “nature” in AR reduce stress levels just as it would in real life?