Spring Client Event Recap: VR, AR, and The Metaverse with Healium Founder Sarah Hill

 Derek Hartley By: Derek Hartley

As a firm, we pride ourselves on always doing what's best for out clients, including preparing them for the future beyond their financial plan. As we celebrate 40 years of service, we've been thinking back to just how much the world has changed since we opened our doors in 1983.

In June 2023, Plancorp clients and employees were invited to join us for a special presentation by the founder of Healium, a wellness tech startup specializing in health applications of virtual and augmented reality experiences. Sarah Hill was fresh from Cupertino where she attended the announcement of the much anticipated Apple VisionPro, the tech giant's first major step toward the metaverse in a mixed reality format.

We invited Sara to help demystify this emerging technology and help us cut though the noise to touch base with how this technology can be used for good. Her primary presentation focused on how without knowing it, we are all participating in the stress Olympics by navigating the fast-paced modern world and it is up to us to find ways to manage through that, including thinking of technology as a positive tool, not just something that causes stress.

To start off, we'll cover the basics Sarah shared.

What is Augmented Reality? (AR)

Put simply, augmented reality is an experience presented on a screen where computer-generated images are superimposed onto a view of the real world. The most notable example you may have heard of is Pokémon GO, where users use their phone's camera to see the world in front of them with computer generated imaged of characters they could catch or battle.

What is Virtual Reality? (VR)

In comparison, virtual reality is a more immersive experience. An entire environment is created by computer generated images and presented (primarily through the use of goggles today) to a user, making it feel like you are in that environment. 

If you've seen videos of folks wearing goggles and holding controllers playing a game, they are experiencing virtual reality. Although Apple got a lot of attention last month for the VisionPro, Meta's Quest Pro series and Pico's VR headsets have been around for a few years now. 

What is Mixed Reality? 

Mixed Reality is similar to augmented reality, except the primary experience is flipped. In AR, the primary image is the real world "background" with computer generated images laid on top. In mixed reality, the background could be computer generated and a real-world experience is laid on top.

With the Vision Pro demo, this became more widely understood as a key feature is that someone in the room with you while you are wearing the goggles can "break through" the virtual experience so you can see them.

How are these technologies being used?

In many ways, the pandemic expedited interest in having the ability to feel like you were experiencing something without actually being there. If you at any point suffered from "Zoom fatigue," you may have benefitted from a more immersive experience.

Early use cases of this technology have been gaming-focused, but advancements in both the hardware and software of VR goggles have expanded the use into education, workplace productivity, and health and wellness.  For example, VisionPro touts that you can use all of your favorite apps virtually floating around you instead of buying a second, third, or fourth screen to be creative and productive in your environment.

Because of how immersive it is, VR is also being seen as a fast-track way to train people in what feels like a real scenario. Imagine things like flight simulators for pilots but available to professionals of all types to test what they've learned without putting anyone at risk. 

VR for Health & Wellness

Last, and what Healium focuses on, is wellness. As someone who has managed anxiety for her whole life, Sarah Hill became immediately interested in whether you could use virtual experiences to promote relaxation and focus without the use of medication. The research is still new and rapidly growing, but there are clear indicators that the calming experiences generated through VR or AR have similar impacts on health and wellness as meditation.

The big differentiator of the Healium experience is the ability to wear a biofeedback monitor while using the product to track brain activity that corresponds to what you are seeing on the screen. The example shared during the presentation was how based on your tracked ability to bring your heart rate down, the virtual environment may reward you with beautiful experiences like a hatching butterfly, which in turn builds connections in your brain to do that more easily in the future.

Based on user feedback, it seems like these experiences may help those who find it difficult to meditate achieve similar results in a way that doesn't require as much up-front mental focus.

Honor Everywhere

Before founding Healium, Sarah Hill was a journalist for KOMU, the NBC affiliate in Columbia, MO. For years she followed human interest stories around the world. One special interest that was close to Sarah's heart as she was on the cutting edge of Google Hangouts and Google Glass about a decade ago was connecting the military and veteran communities through technology. 

With the use of VR technology, the Healium team manages is Honor Everywhere, a virtual reality experience where veterans who are unable to travel to the memorials dedicated to their service are able to see them and feel like they are actually there.

This single use case is a great example of ways in which this technology can be used for good.

What's next for VR?

It's important to remember when you see the size of the goggles or the cost of the headsets that we are still in the early stages of this technology. Liken our current moment to cell phones in the late 90's; new and innovative, but with limited features and a long way to go toward being more affordable and intuitive. 

While it's impossible to predict exactly where this industry will go next, what is clear is the desire to tie technological into the real world, not just individual devices, is strong.

Why host this event for Plancorp clients?

Similar to our investing philosophy, we know you can't predict the future. But you can be prepared and realistically informed. While we find it doubtful everyone will own a VR headset within the next year, it's great to stay informed of where emerging technology is heading. Whether you're looking to play beat saber with your family or hope to see this move into educating the next generation in an engaging and immersive way, keep an eye on this space! 

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More about Sarah Hill & Healium

Sarah Hill is the CEO of Healium, the world's first biometrically-powered VR/AR immersive media channel controlled by the user's brainwaves and heart rate via consumer wearables like fitness trackers. She tells stories with bio-data. 

Hill developed Healium for herself as well as the 41 million others who struggle with anxiety and insomnia. 

Hills holds several patents for biometrically-controlled media. Her XR experiences are clinically validated in 7 peer-reviewed journals and have been viewed more than 7 million times.

Derek joined in 2022 to lead Plancorp’s marketing. He brings a wide variety of experience in digital and traditional marketing, client communications and public relations, expanding our ability to connect with and help more families in the years to come. More »