Awareness VR

The Challenge

There are a wide range of known benefits of meditation that goes beyond relaxation, yet in my experience very few people meditate and even less do it consistently.

My Role

This was my capstone project for my graduate degree in User-Centered Design at Brandeis University.

  • UX Research
  • UX Design Concept
  • Prototyping
  • Usability Testing

Duration: Jan – Mar 2023

Stakeholders: UX design supervisor and peers

VR Prototype Awareness VR

The Approach

The Discovery

I conducted 4 semi-structured interviews to understand

  • What are people’s current understanding of meditation?
  • Why are people interested in starting a meditation practice?
  • What are the barriers that keep people from starting meditation?
  • What are the reasons people stop after they have tried meditation?
  • What are some objects, sounds, and environments that people associate with focus and calm?
Affinity Mapping

Affinity Mapping

Current Perceptions of Meditation

Mental Exercise

Multiple participants saw meditation as a form of mental exercise comparing it with physical exercise.

Focus & Calm

When people think of meditation first thing that comes to their mind is peace, calm, and then focus.

Introspection & Presence

People saw self-awareness and presence as some of the benefits of meditation.

Current Practice

Guided Meditation

3 out of the 4 participants use or have used a guided meditation mobile app. 

Breath & Body

All participants have experienced meditation in the form of focusing on their breath or body. 


All 4 participants were not consistent with their practice and would like to be doing more than they are at this time.



All 4 participants see themselves as the main barrier in the form of procrastination, laziness, self-sabotage, etc.


People talked about not having enough time while at the same time mentioned when they did have the time they still did not practice even when their goal was to meditate more often. 

Lack of Understanding

A participant feared harming his mind if he did it incorrectly. Also, participants had beliefs such as you’re not supposed to think, you should keep your eyes closed. 

Helpful Features in a Meditation App


Keeping track of the number of days they did meditate and seeing it in a calendar view encouraged them. 


2 participants mentioned they liked a series of sessions like a course that built upon what they learned in the last guided session.


A participant mentioned setting up an in-app reminder over a span of time helped them remember. 


Personal Space

People preferred to be at home for practice.


People also mentioned wanting to be in nature.



Keeping track of the number of days they did meditate and seeing it in a calendar view encouraged them. 


The sound of birds was second to the sounds of water bodies. 

Competitive Analysis

Summary: Waking Up provides content suitable for beginners to advanced-level meditators. TRIPP provides wellness solutions with innovative technology (AR and VR) that would motivate users to start meditating. A solution that provides both is missing at this time. (Click here for full analysis)

Waking Up

  • Mobile app
  • Content is rooted in mostly ancient wisdom, modern science, and philosophy. 
  • Content for beginners to advanced meditators
  • Meditation series are guided by experienced and renowned instructors.
  • No in-app community feature
  • No personalization features.


  • VR app with companion mobile app.
  • Large selection of immersive digital worldscapes with customizable experiences.  
  • Content for beginning meditators.
  • Gamified experiences to keep the user engaged for calm and focus. 
  • Has community features through EvolVR's guided meditations.
  • Able to upload personal photos for the VR space
Persona Empathy Map for Beginner Meditator

Persona Empathy Map for a Beginner Meditator

Defining the Problem

Based on my findings from the discovery research I framed the problem statement that I could use to begin ideating.

How might we motivate people to begin meditating and be consistent?

Design Considerations Based on Findings

Progress Tracking

Features that allow the user to track their progress over time would encourage them to continue.


Using natural sounds especially rainfall and a waterfall in the background would have a calming effect.


Participants preferred personal space or in nature for meditation.

Limit Movements

Limiting the amount of movement during the experience would limit the distractions for the user.   

Bigger Context

Helping the users see a bigger picture of how meditation affects them would motivate them to continue.


Having a system of accountability in the product, like group meditation would motivate a beginner to be consistent. 


10x10 Sketches


Mindmap for Navigation


Design Considerations

Delayed Start

40-second delayed start to the guided audio instructions for the user to adjust to the new immersive environment.

Clear Start and End

Use of bell as an auditory signifier to begin and close the session. 

Starting Ritual

To prime the user for the meditation session ahead.

Calming Colors

Use of colors associated with calmness.

Field of View

Images from Michael C. Albers (Prototypr)

Low Fidelity Prototype

I conducted 4 Usability Tests out of which 3 were in-person and 1 remote. All tests were conducted with a VR headset. 2 out of the 4 people had never used a VR before.

Navigation Menu
  • Labels: Participants were less likely to interact with meditations with unfamiliar labels.
  • Home Screen: The number of options available on the home screen could overwhelm a new user.
  • Motivation: Participants thought the tracking features would motivate them to be consistent.
Meditation Experience
  • Closed Eyes
    • The environment was too bright for the participants.
    • The static nature of the environment made the users less engaged.
    • Participants associated closed eyes with meditation.
  • Guided Instructions
    • Participants liked the empty spaces in between instructions.
    • Background noise in the recording was distracting.
  • Subtle Ambient Sound
    • Participants thought subtle ambient sound matching the environment would increase immersion without distracting them while meditating.  

High Fidelity Prototype

I conducted 2 Usability Tests out of which 1 was in-person and 1 remote.

  • The environment was still a bit bright for the participants
  • A first-time VR user chose to explore the environment over doing the guided meditation

Lessons Learnt

  • Currently, there are few software options to quickly prototype and test for an immersive medium like VR.
  • For legibility in VR, the text needs to be at the right angle and distance relative to the user.
  • Users are less likely to continue using a meditation application with a static environment. Subtle movements and sounds can make the experience engaging which could motivate the users to return.
  • The size of the immersive experience needs to be optimized so that there is no lag due to internet speed. An increase in loading speed in a VR headset can result in motion sickness for the users.

Next Steps

  • Adding subtle movements that don’t distract the user and introducing some dynamic stimuli to keep the user engaged and enhance emersion.
  • Adding other features that support users to be consistent
    • Journaling
    • Set Reminders