(Editor’s note: This article is the latest installment in a series by Amazon Science delving into the science behind products and services of companies in which Amazon has invested. The Alexa Fund participated in TRIPP’s $11.2M Series A extension funding round in June 2022.)
With meditation soaring in popularity and the virtual reality (VR) industry booming, Alexa Fund portfolio company TRIPP is at the confluence of two powerful trends: mental well-being and VR. TRIPP is a digital wellness program that uses VR headsets to immerse users in breathing meditation experiences.
The idea to meld meditation and VR first occurred to TRIPP CEO and co-founder Nanea Reeves in 2017 when she, a lifelong practitioner of meditation with a 15-year career in the gaming industry, was experimenting with the medium by building a solitaire game in VR.
“The way I felt exploring VR was even more interesting to me than the actual development,” Reeves says. Her interest developed into a deep curiosity about the psychological effects of VR, and she began searching the scientific literature.
In addition to studying VR in medical and mental health use cases, she discovered work by Giuseppe Riva, a neuropsychologist whose research has shown that VR can elicit emotions such as awe and, in turn, influence people’s well-being, agency, and perceptions of themselves.
“Inspired by Giuseppe’s research, we wondered if we could create environments that make you go, ‘Oh, wow!’ and give you a lift,” Reeves explains. That became her impetus to found TRIPP in 2017, pursuing the hypothesis that, by stimulating experiences through VR, people may gain some agency over their emotions.
Riva’s work identified several aspects of VR that made it particularly effective for evoking awe, including its immersive nature and the complexity and scale of virtual environments.
“We started leaning into that, and we started to play with scale in our designs,” says Reeves.
In 2019, TRIPP launched its award-winning wellness application, TRIPP, in VR. The application offers immersive mindfulness experiences and, to date, has delivered nearly 6 million wellness sessions. TRIPP continues to work closely with neuroscience and psychiatry advisors through PsyAssist to design and evaluate their experiences and with a host of researchers who are studying its potential uses.
A recent clinical trial suggested that TRIPP might positively influence well-being and mood in cancer patients, and ongoing projects are assessing whether TRIPP can help people in recovery from substance use disorders or anxiety and pain control, among other initiatives.
“With some of the early data coming in, it seems very promising that tools like TRIPP might have a positive impact,” Reeves says, “but we are still only at the beginning of what may be possible with VR.”
Amazon Science spoke with Reeves about the motivation for TRIPP, its roots in science, and the implications for what it can achieve with VR.