Total recall: the ‘sensory reality’ pod that lets you escape from work

The relaxation pod helps people escape the stresses of work

Got the Monday blues? Ask your boss to consider this — a “sensory reality” booth that stressed workers can climb into, transporting them to their own enchanted forest or tropical island.

The pod is designed to stimulate more of the body’s senses than virtual reality goggles do alone, so “employees can mentally travel to any destination”.

Sensiks, a start-up based in Paddington and Holland, claims its 240cm high, 140cm wide pod helps “recall memories from the past” to reduce stress, will leave the user feeling “recharged and re-energised”, and can even “provoke a euphoric state of mind”.

It is among the nominees shortlisted for the Mental Health in the Workplace Challenge at the Axa Health Tech & You Awards.

Workers sit in the cabin, strap on a VR headset running Unity software, and are whisked away to a digital dimension. As they view 360-degree video they are brushed by warm or cool breezes. Smells released by combining scent cartridges include burning wood, salty sea air, chocolate and coconut, freshly-cut lawn and elephant dung. The idea is that the fragrance will match the content being seen. Experiences include a drone flight above a city and over mountains, a beach, and a walk with elephants in African savannah.

The pod measures heart rate and skin temperature. Feedback on stress levels is given via a biometric headband, ear clip and handheld device similar to a lie detector. The software learns about individual users over time so it can adapt experiences they find soothing.

Each booth costs from £2,000. Sensiks claims it can help prevent burnout. Founder Fred Galstaun said: “My idea started at a sunny day at the beach. The relaxing effect the beach had triggered me and made me set my initial goal: replicate the beach feeling by inducing orchestrated multisensory stimuli within an enclosed environment.

“People tell us they were really in the situations and experiences we offer.”

Other nominees include Performetric, a keyboard and mouse that monitors every tap and click to detect mental fatigue. It can flag up when an employee is too tired and can tell them to take a break.

An “analytics dashboard” allows managers to monitor productivity. Axa research found 51 per cent of workers surveyed said they were willing to wear a device that could detect early signs of mental health problems.

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