MindCotine is a program that combines virtual reality, cue exposure therapy, and mindfulness techniques with a biofeedback monitoring system in a community platform, to help smokers quit.
The Meaning of Quitting
We tell ourselves all sorts of stories to make sense of the world around us, because we are really just nodes of information living in absolute symbiosis with our environments.
For centuries, humans have been telling ourselves how special we are, and how distant we are from nature, because we have reason and language, but now, digital technologies are telling us another story. Think about it. DNA is the very first code ever written, and it was written by nature roughly two and a half billion years ago.
Much happened since then, from the advent of the first unicellular organism to the variety of life we see in the world today. About ten thousand years ago, human beings began recording language in written form. Language categorizes in general, but literacy perfected the technique of data classification. Now, digital technologies are bringing us into the era of pattern recognition, and the patterns that tell our stories are the patterns of our behavior.
Smoking is one of those patterns, and those who have successfully changed it can tell you how it changed their lives (and, in some cases, perhaps even saved it).
What does this have to do with VR?
Well, virtual reality, unlike physical space, only contains the stimuli it is programed to contain, which makes it the perfect training room. Practice is the key to changing any behavior, and VR gives us the opportunity to face the same stimulus over and over again, in a safe environment, until we find the appropriate response, and then practice it until it becomes a habit. VR and Cue Exposure Therapy didn’t only allow people to overcome their phobias, but even patients who were paralyzed regained sensibility and mobility in their limbs by training to use move skeletons through VR. Talk about a flow of information between the body and the mind!
Now, MindCotine is applying the same therapies used to treat phobias in virtual environments, to treat addiction for the first time, while empowering users to engage their own consciousness of their own bodies through the practice of mindfulness. To take it even further, the program incorporates a biofeedback monitoring system that personalizes the experience for each user, and aims at building a community of users who share insights of their processes, and support each other throughout their common journey. To validate the program, MindCotine has set up trial groups at several universities in Argentina and Mexico.
At first sight, one might think that MindCotine promises just another solution to nicotine addiction. If we consider it closely, however, digital technologies in general, and VR in particular, are reinventing the makeup and character of human experience, and MindCotine’s features, such as biofeedback, are already using pattern recognition to help us redefine our addictive behavior, and training us to do it, in the unexplored space of VR, where our stories are still waiting to be written.
This new digital layer is where the code of our upcoming evolution will be written.