Virginia Tech® home

Intersecting interior design with virtual reality

Exploring visual stimuli interventions for creating restorative virtual reality environments

Interior design discipline is concerned with creating environments that foster human health, safety and wellbeing. In the last two years the importance of this mission became significantly more apparent as we spent more time indoors sheltering-in-place and isolating during and after the pandemic, and as the World Health Organization reported a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression where sheltering in place and isolation were associated with measures of elevated anxiety symptoms (WHO, 2022).

Intersecting design with digital technology, and incorporating virtual reality (VR) and eye tracking tools, this project investigates how interior spaces can respond to our physiological needs, support mental health treatment, and facilitate stress relief. 

Specifically, the aims are to (1) examine the potential use of VR indoor settings in medical healing centers as a substitute for existing treatment spaces, and (2) design immersive VR interior settings for patients where visual stimuli including color, textures, electric and daylighting, and spatial geometry can be altered based on response and treatment needs.

The two-phase research design will include state trait anxiety and depression scales for measuring self-reported anxiety and depression levels for different degrees of visual stimuli presented in VR.

In addition to furthering interior design’s role on human health and wellbeing and proposing a systematic method for analyzing the effect of interior design variables on human psychology, this research is significant since the proposed VR-based interior design environments will be tested not only as surrogates of physical environments but also as post-pandemic, tele-medicine protocols that inform the design of therapeutic indoor environments supporting mental wellbeing.