Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll likely have boarded the VR hype train with high hopes for future devices.
One of the latest additions to the VR line-up is Dubai-based tech company Merlin Digitial's new headset, the IntelliSense Coherence Kit – a health-focused wearable that consists of a VR headset, clip on heart rate monitor and an accompanying smartphone app. Naturally, like other similar headsets, you provide your own smartphone.
The impetus behind the tech is to have a piece of kit that'll help to reduce stress by plonking you in the middle of one of three relaxing virtual environments. The user is then prompted to follow a series of breathing exercises, while the heart rate monitor tracks your progress.
Sum of its parts
Firstly, the headset is nothing to write home about. It's an unassuming black visor, that isn't as nearly well put together as say Samsung's Gear VR (not to mention more expensive options such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive). It is however a marked step up over Google's Cardboard VR and does a decent job of holding your smartphone in place while simultaneously managing to not slide off your face.
The included heart-rate monitor is a small clip that you can either attach to your earlobe (where it can easily monitor blood flow) or wear across your chest as a strap. We opted to go with the earlobe method and found that it didn't pinch as hard as expected or irritate after prolonged use.
We then slotted in our smartphone and fired up the IntelliSense HVR app, available for both iOS and Android.
Upon donning the headset, we were presented with three 'relaxing' locations to choose from: a flower-filled field on a summer's day, a desert oasis, and a small patch of sand in the middle of the ocean.
We'll be honest, if we found ourselves in either of the latter two locations IRL, we'd probably be trying to spell out S.O.S with any nearby rocks, so we opted for the field of flowers.
The scenario booted up, and lo and behold, we were transported into a colourful meadow, rainbows and all. We'd be lying if we said it wasn't quite relaxing, and VR in any form is always pretty cool. Sure enough, the breathing exercises started, and we obediently followed the on-screen prompts. Breathe in for seven, out for seven and repeat. Simple enough.
The ultimate aim is to help the user regulate their breathing by following a series of on-screen prompts. The more accurately you follow the cues, the better your score, and thus the environment around you improves. Mess up, and things will quickly start looking a little worse for wear, and you'll be encouraged to get your act together and get back to breathing correctly again.
Merlin IntelliSense VR Coherence Kit Initial Verdict
Merlin's gambit to lead you to a life of health and wellness is a neat idea - and we sure did get a whole lot of breathing done - but how much you get out of it really depends on how seriously you take meditation, and enjoy the idea of relaxing with a plastic box strapped to your face.
There's potential, sure, but we'd be lying if we said we didn't spend equally as much time using the headset as a way to enjoy the various 360-degree videos available on YouTube, as we did huffing and puffing in a field of virtual flowers.