Here’s a definition of Biophilia:
Biophilia is human's deep-seated affinity for nature. It explains why we feel restored after being in a park, invigorated by the seashore, captivated by crackling fires and crashing waves; why our capacity to be creative can be influenced by viewing scenes of nature.
That’s why it is now part of good green building practice and is considered critical in the Living Building Challenge and the Well Building Standard. But people who work in the city cannot always get out to a park. They may be in office buildings with giant floor plates and not a window in sight. They may be in climates or latitudes where it is dark for months.
That’s why the NaturePod is so interesting. It looks like a massage chair with a headset, but it is much more:
NaturePod™ is a revolutionary new way to deliver nature to the workplace. Its proprietary technology uses Natural Resonance Imaging (NRI) to recreate the diverse restorative and physical health gains of spending time in nature through scientifically curated imagery.
I tried the NaturePod at Toronto’s IIDEX design show earlier this year. You sit in it like you do on a massage chair and rest your head on the cushion, looking through the eyepieces. You then see a soothing view of a forest with mountains beyond, while sound effects play. I did not use it long enough to see real results, but aXiom Labs, the people behind the NaturePod, say it has the following benefits:
Specific Restorative Benefits:
-reduces stress and anxiety
-reduces blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension
Specific Health Benefits:
Now I wouldn’t think that looking at a
VR no, it’s NR for Natural Reality, would be as effective as the real thing. But just as studies showed that walking on a treadmill was as effective at increasing productivity and creativity as walking outside, evidently the same thing happens here. In fact, it may be even more effective; instead of going outside to some vest pocket park with stunted trees and with polluted urban air, you get to look at beautiful scenery:
We have a scientifically curated set of nature-like experiences that are especially enhanced to deliver more intensive health benefits in less time than nature itself actually does!
In fact, it really is a lot more effective. according to NaturePod,
Our independent investigators have verified that a ten minute daily exposure in NaturePod™ Solo equates to the restorative impacts of an hour-long walk in nature - an ROI of 6X on what nature provides unaided.
The implications of this are significant. No more long lunch hours or breaks to get outside; this can significantly increase employee productivity. Architects and builders can save a lot of money and even more energy by eliminating windows on buildings and increasing the size of floor plates.
But most importantly, we can stop worrying so much about climate change and as Bjorn Lomborg and others suggest, we can adapt to a warmer world and the loss of trees, the changes in nature, the elimination of our natural environment because we will get an even better green buzz from NaturePod, where it has all been preserved for us to immerse ourselves in forever.
In fact, it is a project of the Situation Lab at OCAD University in Toronto, led by Stuart Candy, a tenure-track professor for the Master of Design program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation, working with team members Bergur Ebbi Benediktsson, Nourhan Hegazy, Jennifer McDougall, and Prateeksha Singh.
It grew out of their former work building the Nature Deficit Disorder Clinic where patients would be exposed to “healthful doses of virtual nature.” It was exhibited on Earth Day last year at the request of the David Suzuki Foundation, and was seen by the head of marketing for Interface in Canada, who asked how this might translate into something more people could try, how might they “bring to life a provocative container of for a conversation about our changing relationship with nature in a heavily and steadily urbanizing environment."
At IIDEX it was all presented as a real product, a story, for a device that can be rented for $199 per month. It was all presented professionally and absolutely straight-faced. It elicited recognition and some alarm as people tried it out and accepted by most as face value; but as Stuart noted that they expected a different reaction:
That it would seem plausible at a glance and then people would think about it and say "wait a minute, that's insane, we can't possibly be doing that" but that isn't how people responded; nine out of ten really liked it and we could have sold a bunch of them had we been there on a commercial basis that we were pretending to be there on.
It did provoke a fascinating conversation which we will try and turn into a podcast. But there were some really interesting takeaways: do we do the full Lomborg and use this as a way to avoid dealing with our problems but learning how to cope with them?
You can say that "Simulated nature is not as good as real nature but is better than nothing", and that engenders an interesting dilemma for society which is whether to recognize the problems, do we mitigate those with more technology or do we try to get to root level causes and actually rethink our relationship with nature and our built environment.
The other more surprising takeaway was how persuasive it was and how many people accepted it as real and were ready to dive in.
The sort of solution that Naturepod represents is a sort of highly attractive and probably very likely in some quarters, expedient way to mitigate this systemic problem rather than actually deal with it head on. What we wanted to do is dramatize a near future possibility that is really almost evident once that you begin to think about it. And surprisingly, the thing was so plausible even today that nobody really questioned if it was actually happening because technologically we are there. The question and conversation is whether we are there morally.