For some time now I’ve been interested in the prospect of recreating the psychedelic experience in virtual reality. This has led me to try several “consciousness” based VR experiences, mostly around meditation and most of which were unremarkable.
Recently one VR experience stood out, called SoundSelf. SoundSelf involves chanting while the game creates a real-time feedback loop of audio-visual stimulus based on your vocalizations. The combination of abstract visuals and distortions of your own voice being played back at you in real time is very immersive and very psychedelic.
The question in my head going into these experiences is always: Is there actually something to this? There were others waiting to try SoundSelf so I used it just long enough to get the answer – yes. While I didn’t play long enough to enter into a deep trance, I imagine with more time you certainly could.
My initial experiences with VR gave the impression that the technology was so inadequate that pursuing the psychedelic/virtual reality project wouldn’t be worth it at all, but trying SoundSelf changed my perspective. Although it is nowhere near comparable to a full-blown psychedelic trip, it was by far the closest I’ve experienced.
I spoke to the founder afterwards and he explained his motivations behind creating the game – exactly the project I am interested in: recreating the psychedelic experience in VR.
The thinking behind the desire to create a technology like this is that it could potentially spread the accessibility of psychedelic (or psychedelic-like) experiences much more quickly and with less friction than the actual drugs themselves.
While we are making progress with drug policy, it is slow going, and may still be several decades or more before peak spiritual/mystical experiences are as readily available as say, drinking alcohol.
The viability of this project depends on the rate of technological progress in the VR space as well as the requisite initiative from a group of people willing to carry it out.
If recreating the psychedelic experience in VR is something that interests you or someone you know is currently pursuing the project, I’d like to hear from you – please contact me here.
Update 2018: Dutch visionary artist Sander Bos has an app for the Oculus Rift called Visionarium that is intended to simulate the psychedelic experience. People who’ve tried this app have compared it to their ayahuasca experiences.