According to Kenny Chesney, “We all have a song that somehow stamped our lives, takes us to another place and time,” I know that I certainly do. But can technology do that too?
Here are the facts: We know that numerous studies have shown the effect of technology on teenagers, along with the results of blue light on sleep. There is information all around us that says technology has a significant impact on our moods and emotions. As with teenagers, we often associate technology with adverse reactions, rushing, depression, anxiety, stress, etc.
Dr. David Putrino, the co-director of the Abilities Research Center and director of Rehabilitation Innovation at the Mount Sinai Health System, looks at it differently. Putrino says his job is “to use technology to make people’s lives better.” In his research, he does a lot of work with high-performance athletes. However, when his lab shut down during the pandemic, he took it to another use.
Putrino saw the struggling hospital workers and the stress they were dealing with, so he turned his lab into a “recharge center.” The center has several rooms that use a mix of technology, scents and physical objects to create an environment that helps the highly stressed hospital workers.
The room uses “audio experiences that are known to reduce stress.” These are specially composed pieces of music that, in this case, are designed to calm and relax. He also uses sounds placed into the music to create an experience. In these spaces, he uses campfire crackles to induce relaxation. There are projectors in the room to project HD images of nature scenes, such as campfires, waterfalls or still water. Fake plants and trees fill the room as appropriate to help the occupant feel like they are in another place. Gentle fans blow air around the room to simulate an outdoor environment. Finally, aromatherapy finishes the mood-setting. The scents match appropriately with the scenes being played out on the screen. Putrino teamed up with Studio Elsewhere to help design the views and the experience. Each room has different scenes. The controls for each room are entirely voice-activated so that a person can walk into the room and simply say, “Alexa, start the rustic scene.” The rest is done automatically. Their results show a 65% reduction in stress in the people who choose to visit the space.
This entire experience is interesting because it highlights so many parts of the audiovisual industry. First, it highlights the ability we have, with tools at our disposal to affect people’s moods, behavior and stress levels substantially. By using these tools well, we can actually have a very positive impact on people’s lives. This is not just providing someone with a great sound system, or a fantastic theater, but truly having an impact on their lives. As I learned about this center, I started thinking about the other people for whom this would be a welcome experience, who are in known high-stress positions. It would perhaps include troops returning from deployment, and police officers or firefighters returning from bad accidents or fires. While operating with that type of worker would likely require technical and psychological expertise, these could also be tools that are offered in office settings.
Another exciting aspect of this setup is that while it is heavy with technology, it is not about technology. The person who visits these rooms is not supposed to think about the projection or the audio, or how to control the room. They are simply supposed to benefit from the experience. Even as we design boardrooms, classrooms and performance halls, this is an important lesson to learn. It particularly struck me that it is all voice control — very simple voice control at that — merely telling Alexa to perform one command. We are not asking the user to fumble with a control panel or remote control.
If this interests you as much as it did me, there are a few resources for you to take a look at:
- Here is a podcast with Dr. Putrino talking about the recharge center: https://www.mountsinai.org/about/newsroom/road-resilience/recharge-room.
- Here is a YouTube video of a healthcare worker visiting the center: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhBl0yGqsbw.
During this time, when some in the AV industry are struggling to think about what is next for them and what new services can they can provide, this struck me as a great opportunity. Not only does it pose an opportunity for sales, but it also allows you to improve people’s lives. There is nothing better than that.