“To the Verge” had an insightful conversation with Allen Oslo Urtecho, Design Lead and founder at Studio Bahia, a nonprofit organization that provides therapies for its employees at a large scale and the most competitive price in the wellness industry. He talks about how phenomenological psychology uses the immersive qualities in virtual reality to produce better outcomes than traditional psychology.
About Allen Oslo Urtecho and Studio Bahia
Studio Bahia’s journey began with finding a way to provide therapy to children in crisis at refugee camps. Studio Bahia is a humanitarian organization that provides therapy, treatments, and training using virtual reality in regions of the developed and developing world.
The organization’s mission is to make therapy, treatments, and training accessible so they can address health crises, from epidemics to trauma.
“We are a 501c3 nonprofit, and our team is 5 women with Ph.D. in VR and me writing a Ph.D. dissertation in Immersive Design in Indigenous Psychology. We also have 12 summer interns and 16 volunteers. Studio Bahia is a flat organization where we vote on initiatives, and all staff earns $25 an hour.”
The Procedure For Digital Therapy
“We start with a problem, ask questions and research to respond to this problem with virtual reality therapy. For example, during the pandemic, many people developed insomnia and had trouble sleeping, and people already with insomnia might have developed chronic insomnia. So we began researching insomnia and current cognitive behavioral therapy approaches and how to transfer that into the virtual landscape and achieve similar or better outcomes. We are currently in the trial phase for this therapy.”
Employee Therapy Model
“We receive requests for our Lili vr headsets which we manufacture; currently, we are manufacturing 5000 to fill hospital orders, yet we have requests from corporations and organizations such as foster care programs, veterans programs, and other vulnerable populations.”
“We sell hospitals and companies the Lili vr headsets at $25 each. All digital content is always free, and we donate Lili vr headsets to foster care programs, veteran programs, refugees, and other vulnerable populations.”
The Advantages And Use Cases Of Virtual Reality In Physical and Mental Healthcare
“We apply a Google Cardboard approach because we know that mobile phones are not going away, and this year they have better specs than VR-specific headsets.”
Virtual reality provides an embodied experience with many benefits to physical and mental health and wellbeing. “In our design philosophy, we do not use language, words, or numbers in our virtual reality productions; we focus on embodied learning and drawing on one’s body wisdom.”
Studio Bahia’s experience of helping Syrian and European refugees against trauma with Virtual Reality Therapy
“We develop our therapies with refugees, and they provide feedback to improve the quality of the design and better desired psychological outcomes. We manufacture Lili vr headsets, so our current challenges are manufacturing, supply chains, and raw materials shortages and volatility.”
“We also have logistical challenges in delivering therapies to refugees due to migration and constant movement. We provide our Lili vr headsets for free, and all our content is always free. We welcome donations that are tax-deductible at www.studiobahia.org”
VR Wellness In Metaverse
In the future, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will look at the therapies made by Studio Bahia and will refine them and personalize them to address the psychological concern of the individual better. Meaning that therapy will be personalized to the needs of an individual.
Challenges Associated With Digital Health Procedures
Digital health is plagued by overcomplicated design by binary thinking men. “We employ a majority of women, and we simplify; we do not use language, words, or numbers in our designs, and we also do not use interfaces. We give people what they want when they want it and where they want it with a simple, accessible therapy model.”
Studio Bahia’s Vision For Metaverse
“We are the Metaverse; we provide designs and therapies based on neuroscience and psychology findings to make the Metaverse a pleasant place to inhabit. Who would not rather spend time working and playing in the metaverse than sitting in a cubicle or stuck in traffic?”
“We are also developing revolutionary treatments for Alzheimer’s and ADHD, which require a VR-specific headset, and so besides mobile VR, we are moving into Oculus and Steam.”
The interaction with Allen Oslo Urtecho presented a unique viewpoint on how immersive technology might yield substantial benefits for human health. Furthermore, Allen with Studio Bahia is endeavoring virtual therapies based on phenomenological psychology for vulnerable populations. However, besides all these developments, he feels that one should only be involved in the sector to a limited extent, as even the best things may have negative implications.
Allen Oslo Urtecho is the Design Lead and Founder of Studio Bahia, a nonprofit company that delivers large-scale and low-cost wellness therapy to its employees. He received his bachelor’s degree from Florida International University and his master’s degree from Georgetown University. He enjoys talking about Metaverse, Immersive design, and Indigenous psychology. He has lived in ten countries and traveled to over 80.
Author: Khatija Bano
Khatija is a Senior Editor at To The Verge. Her interest in tech started when she came across AI, IoT, and XR. Always keen to learn the latest tech peripherals, Khatija loves to interact with tech industry experts and dig for information relating to emerging technologies. When not nerding over technology, she can be found on the couch binging mystery or sci-fi movies.