All our lives have a soundtrack, and a Bay Area startup named Spatial, wants to turn it into a rewarding experience. After announcing a portfolio of products aimed at creating immersive soundscapes in public spaces, Spatial highlighted its product’s potential use as a therapeutic tool, as written by Fast Company.
Once the COO of Electronic Arts and president of Lucas Arts (as well as an ex-Disney Imagineer), Spatial COO Darrel Rodriguez states that while the company wants to make a profit, it also wants to have a social impact with its product.
In that regard, Spatial has been working recently with the California Institute of Arts (CalArts) and Roger Holzberg, founder of Reimagine Well, a company that delivers immersive patient experiences through screens and virtual reality gear. Both Holzberg and Shannon Scrofano, a professor at CalArts, teach a course at the school called Healthcare by Design. And, in spring of 2021, the class partnered with Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital to deliver immersive experiences at their Santa Clarita Valley facility.
Students enrolled in the class got to work on two experiential rooms. The first was a tranquility room designed for families undergoing an end-of-life journey. Students created multiple personas and a digital platform to house all the images and audio needed to create soothing environments like mountains, beaches, and forests.
The second was a resiliency room that offered an immersive healing environment and virtual vacation for hospital staff after stressful experiences, such as the loss of a patient. The end goal was to make the hospital go away for those inside. A nurse might travel down a hallway, the sounds of the hospital giving way to gentle winds and cheerful bird calls. Inside the sounds are closer, bristling pine trees and the distant hum of insects. Smart TVs allow the scenes of the hospital to fall away and reveal a mountain stream or more abstract imagery for a meditative experience.
Both experiences benefitted greatly from Spatial’s low development and deployment costs, as well as its flexible design. The technology is simple enough that it can run on any Linux or MacMini system and can be controlled by a mobile app, allowing faculty to quickly break down and rebuild environments on a room-by-room basis.
As described by Holzberg, Spatial delivers dynamic audio that can be close and intimate in one moment while being able to seamlessly move away from you in the next. The sound helps people move away from familiar environments to newer, stranger, or perhaps even more familiar places, jogging pleasant memories dormant in the back of a person’s mind.
Scrofano mirrored Holzberg’s enthusiasm, saying that she can’t wait to see the project scaled up in the future, something that she is sure will be possible owing to Spatial’s technology.