A Spatial Audio App Fostering Environmental Wellbeing

The American Psychological Association (APA) has been annual stress studies since 2007, its sources, intensity, and how people respond to mental and physical stressors. As to be expected, Covid-19 has had a substantial impact on the lives of Americans. Nearly 8 in 10 adults (78%) say the pandemic has been a significant source of stress, with 67% saying they have experienced increased stress throughout the pandemic. Stress gets in the way of quality life, including quality sleep. American adults report sleeping an average of 6.7 hours a night — less than the minimum recommendation of seven to nine hours.6 In addition, 42 percent of adults report that their sleep quality is fair or poor, and 43 percent report that stress has caused them to lie awake at night. Only 20 percent of adults say the quality of their sleep is very good or excellent. Many adults report negative consequences of not getting enough sleep. More than half (53 percent) report feeling sluggish or lazy, 38 percent report feeling irritable, 29 percent report they have trouble concentrating and 25 percent report feeling no motivation to take care of responsibilities.

Research from the past several decades has provided evidence that music-based interventions effectively treat stress. Specifically, music has been shown to be effective in clinical music therapy and music and medicine. However, clinical music therapy remains prohibitive for most.

I addressed the importance of immersive sound when I covered the launch of Bay Area based startup Spatial. COO Darrell Rodriguez—formerly the COO of Electronic Arts and president of LucasArts and an ex-Disney Imagineer—says that the company believes that immersive sound has potential as a therapeutic tool. To that end, Spatial worked with the California Institute of the Arts and Roger Holzberg, founder of Reimagine Well, a company that creates immersive experiences for patients delivered via screens and virtual reality headsets. Holzberg and CalArts professor Shannon Scrofano teach a course at the school called Healthcare by Design. The spring 2021 iteration of the class operated in partnership with Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, allowing students to help design tranquil restorative experiences at the Santa Clarita Valley facility. Among these experiences is a tranquility room designed to be used by families at the end-of-life phase of the human journey as an integrated part of the palliative care program.

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