Meditation has been proven to have many health benefits, and now a new tech #Startup called “#Unyte” has released a monitor and a series of virtual diversions that measure a person’s skin and HRV responses as they play interactive meditation #Games. Chronicling these reactions can help people better their overall health and well-being.

Unyte is a new company, founded in 2016, that has created a device called the “iom2” that clips to the viewer’s ear. Described as a "biofeedback hardware," the monitor transfers data about the physiological state of the wearer’s body. The accompanying games--which can be accessed via the website or the app--also come with over fifty “challenges” geared towards relaxation; five of which involve virtual reality.

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Monitors and meditation

The games work by having the user attach the iom2 device to their earlobe and, as they control their breathing and subsequently relax, the games progress organically. Typically, a person’s relaxation rate is measured by their breathing patterns and heart rate. Unyte judges relaxation on a 1 to 100 basis; with one being completely stressed-out and 100 being entirely calm. In order to move forward in the games, a player typically should have a relaxation rate of at least 60. Given the importance of the monitoring system, although anyone can download the games, they are not really feasible without the iom2 monitor device which will retail for $149.

Unyte recently launched a Kickstarter campaign that helped them gain a substantial amount of funding. They are planning the official launch of their device in September of 2017, and it will include games called “Five Forces” and “Relaxing Rhythms”, which features nine steps that focus on self-improvement meditations with titles such as “Finding Your Breath,” “Forgiving Yourself,” “Living A Compassion Life,” and more.

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Each game also features a “guided meditation” option that is read by a well-known guide such as Rich Hanson, Pema Chodron, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Shinzen Young, Adyashanti, and Thich Nhat Hanh.

Inspiration and Technology

Unyte was started by Jason Tafler, a business leader who worked in the field of technology for twenty years. Specifically, Jason recently served as the Executive Vice President of Customer Experience for Rogers Communications, a Canadian telecommunications company. It was a good job, but stressful, as is the case with many senior executive positions that involve the implementation of technology at a large scale. Jason also had experience as an investment banker and a strategist--positions that can also be very stress-inducing.

Although always interested in health topics and meditation, Jason decided to start a business dedicated to health and wellness after experience a life-threatening medical crisis due to the onset of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. After spending several days in the hospital due to heavy internal bleeding, Jason was discharged with a list of medications.

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Doctors told him that he would likely be medicated for the rest of his life. Jason took the medication and also started meditating daily. In a year, he was removed from the medication. Today, he attributes much of his wellness to his meditation regimen.

Inspired by his own experiences, Jason launched Unyte and bought out technology and games from a company called Wild Divine which was founded back in 2001 and was floundering amid the fast-paced changes of the internet. Using their technology, his team revamped certain games to form relaxing, visually appealing “worlds,” where a user’s heart-rate--which subsequently measures relaxation--would impact the game’s progression. Each richly-designed game is described as a “mini quest” that involves relaxing enough to virtually build a bridge or bring a hot air balloon closer to you. These games typically do not take long to complete and can be set on a “difficulty level” of 1 through 10 so even very busy people can find time to meditate. Although the company is based in Canada, they offer their wares worldwide so that they can help people on a global scale.

Forthcoming projects and plans

The Unyte programming team is currently working on several VR projects with the help of several in-house gaming experts. These will be immersive games--meaning that they will be usable with the Oculus Rift--and contain an ongoing series of challenges rather than smaller one-and-done features (albeit ones associated with larger overall sets) as are currently offered. Right now, a nature-themed VR program is in the works as is a space-themed one that virtually transports players into outer space.

“The most difficult part of designing these games is seamlessly melding relaxation with game-play,” Jason Tafler explained in a recent exclusive Skype interview. “We want people to stay engaged, but we cannot excite them too much either.”

The creators of Unyte have acknowledged that their technology can be used for other kinds of games too, from horror-centric premises to virtual exercise routines. Moreover, their relaxation-themed meditation games have already been adopted by addiction treatment clinics, psychologists, pain centers, and more to help patients overcome their ailments. Due to the relaxation-inducing mission of the company, most of the games feature beautiful scenery such as mountains, open sky, waterfalls, and leafy trees that sway slightly in the gentle breeze and the inventors at Unyte have plans to make additional games with similar themes.

“Our games are a vacation for your mind,” Jason explained. “We hope after playing one for even a few minutes you will feel more rested, just like you do when you’re on holiday.”