Background, Research and Overview:

Stress is in one of the leading global causes evoking disease and premature mortality (Dillon et al, 2016). Characterized by high levels of arousal and (often) feelings of not coping, the stress response, conjured by hormonal level alterations, produces physiological changes such as sweat production, increased heart rate, and muscle activation (Wijsman et al, 2013). Despite its prevalence, interventions aimed at reducing stress have low adherence rates.

Virtual reality (VR) and other gaming-style applications are in a unique position to broaden the reach for stress-reduction interventions in modern society (Preziosa 2009). Using biofeedback as a therapeutic control modality, Zen Hackers combines real-time physiological feedback with guided meditation and pranayamic (ancient breathing) cues. Utilizing feedback from electrodermal activity (EDA), the VR experience biofeedback mechanism provides positive reinforcement as participants breathe their physiological output into a healthier direction. A study published in the International Journal of Medical Research and Health Sciences concluded that over time (approximately 30 days) of practicing breathing, participants become trained to change their skin resistance with significant positive effect (Dinesh et al, 2014). As for Zen Hackers: "Relax the Force" edition users, they will achieve a virtual state of zen when this happens: levitating blocks in a naturesque setting.


We want to build cool stuff. We liked the idea of using biofeedback to interface with VR for therapeutic purposes.

Challenges we ran into:

File Management. Lack of sleep. Git Merge conflicts.

Accomplishments that we're proud of:


What we learned:

How to use coroutines for receiving input from external data.

What's next for Zen Hackers:

Incorporate more psychological data collection systems into the experience, such as heart rate, breathing rate, electrocardiogram (ECG), and electroencephalogram (EEG) readings and expand the scene selection.


Dillon, A., Kelly, M., Robertson, I. H., & Robertson, D. A. (2016). Smartphone Applications Utilizing Biofeedback Can Aid Stress Reduction. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 832.

Dhodi Dinesh K., Bhagat Sagar, Karan Thakkar, Peshattiwar Aishwarya, Arati Purnaye, Sarika Paradkar, "Effects of Pranayama on Galvanic Skin Resistance, pulse, blood pressure in prehypertensive patients who are not on treatment."

J. Wijsman, B. Grundlehner, H. Liu, J. Penders and H. Hermens, "Wearable Physiological Sensors Reflect Mental Stress State in Office-Like Situations," 2013 Humaine Association Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction, Geneva, 2013, pp. 600-605.

Alessandra Preziosa, Alessandra Grassi, Andrea Gaggioli & Giuseppe Riva (2009) Therapeutic applications of the mobile phone, British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 37:3, 313-325, DOI: 10.1080/03069880902957031

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