The Me in Me

October 24, 2023

Project Abstract or Summary

The Me in Me is a VR meditative journey exploring different bodily sensations. We invite the audience to examine inwards as if the mind is floating through different body parts to reimagine those internal sensations. We choreographed dances and designed five unique abstract environments to compose immersive visual metaphors to represent the nuanced sensations and rhythms in the body.
The body and the mind are integral to our sense of presence. By channeling movements and internal sensations, we hope the VR meditative journey can be a creative tool to enhance body awareness in beginner-level meditation and other psycho-therapies.

Interoceptive awareness is the ability to identify, access, understand, and respond appropriately to the patterns of internal signals. Training individuals to recognize internal sensations can improve resilience to stress, emotional instability, and mental illness. Interoceptive awareness is interconnected with body movements. Like dance and fitness, some psychotherapies incorporate creative movements to help clients with psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, and complex trauma tap into their internal sensations and establish a sense of presence.
Movement-based psychotherapy is a highly engaging, creative, and expressive process that relies heavily on imagination. Therefore, we see the creative potential of virtual reality to build connections between body and mind, and to help the audience relate to the internal sensations in ways traditional meditation tools cannot achieve.

The Me in Me makes connecting with your internal sensations less intimidating. It combines soothing audio instructions and dynamic visuals to engage the audience throughout the journey. It is a great first step for new mindfulness practitioners and those who have trouble connecting with their bodies to be aware of the interconnection between movements and bodily sensations.

Design Process & Impact
Our project is inspired by the Anatomy Park episode in Rick And Morty and The Magic School Bus, depicting surreal adventures inside the human body. We also referred to works from famous choreographers such as Damien Jalet, who use body forms as dynamic visual patterns. We picked five colors based on sensations and dance dynamics to create a visual extravaganza to express different body rhythms, tempos, and moods. We designed the environments and characters in 3D design software and brought the assets to Unreal Engine. In Unreal Engine, we motion-captured the dancer in the virtual environments we created to combine the spaces and dances seamlessly.

We iterated our prototypes with peers and psychotherapists who incorporated dance movements in their works. After testing our early prototypes with peers, we shortened the duration of the experience and simplified the content so that the audience could focus entirely and follow the instructions. As we demoed our polished experience to psychotherapists, they were stunned by the poetic visual effects and excited about the novelty we brought to movement-based therapy. Specifically, one psychotherapist reported that, as the demography of her clients becomes younger, she found our VR meditative experience would resonate with her clients better than traditional media. She was also interested in potential collaboration to research the validity of our experience and develop it as a clinical tool.

Next Step
We are in the process of turning the project into an interactive experience so that participants can engage more actively with the movements and dances.

Hu Meijie
Zhang Yilin