VRt Therapy: Connect with others and find healing thru art | Won Best AR/VR @ Yale’s YHack 2019

Use the creative process of making art to relieve stress, calm anxiety, better understand your emotions, and connect with support groups around the world in a Virtual Reality therapy environment.

Project won Yale Hackathon 2019’s Best AR/VR Hack Related to Facebook’s Mission


Studies show that drawing, coloring, and other art-making activities can help people express themselves artistically and explore their art’s psychological and emotional undertones [1]. Before this project, many members of our team had already caught on to the stress-relieving capabilities of art-centered events, especially when they involved cooperative interaction. We realized that we could apply this concept in a virtual setting in order to make stress-relieving art events accessible to those who are homeschooled, socially-anxious, unable to purchase art materials, or otherwise unable to access these groups in real life. Furthermore, virtual reality provides an open sandbox suited exactly to the needs of a stressed person that wants to relieve their emotional buildup. Creating art in a therapeutic environment not only reduces stress, depression, and anxiety in teens and young adults, but it is also rooted in spiritual expression and analysis [2]. We envision an online community where people can creatively express their feelings, find healing, and connect with others through the creative process of making art in Virtual Reality.


https://youtu.be/QXY9UfquwNI https://youtu.be/u-3l8vwXHvw

What it does

We built a VR application that learns from the user’s subjective survey responses and then connects them with a support group who might share some common interests and worries. Within the virtual reality environment, they can interact with others through anonymous avatars, see others’ drawings in the same settings, and improve their well-being by interacting with others in a liberating environment. To build the community outside of VR, there is an accompanying social media website allowing users to share their creative drawings with others.

How we built it

  • We used SteamVR with the HTC Vive HMD and Oculus HMD, as well as Unity to build the interactive environments and develop the softwares’ functionality.
  • The website was built with Firebase, Node.js, React, Redux, and Material UI.

Challenges we ran into

  • Displaying drawing real-time on a server-side, rather than client-side output posed a difficulty due to the restraints on broadcasting point-based cloud data through Photon. Within the timeframe of YHack, we were able to build the game that connects multiple players and allows them to see each other’s avatars. We also encountered difficulties with some of the algorithmic costs of the original line-drawing methods we attempted to use.


[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/groups/art-therapy/connecticut/159921?sid=5db38c601a378&ref=2&tr=ResultsName 

[2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/art-therapy


Posted on

November 25, 2019