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Cinematherapy: The Home Theater as a Digital Canvas for Wellness

Cinematherapy: The Home Theater as a Digital Canvas for Wellness

HTA Resource Content

Tim Sinnaeve, Managing Director, Barco Residential, takes a look at the power of projection in promoting wellness and bringing nature into the home.




There has been an increased interest in wellness and biophilia in our industry, mostly focused on human-centric lighting, soundscapes, and indoor air quality. While none of these directly fall within the realm of what Barco Residential brings to the industry, we feel a more holistic view of wellness fits our mission: To create architectural digital canvases that enable the most immersive entertainment and cultural experiences for customers to share with loved ones. As such, many of the experiences we already focus on, like home theater, art, and gaming should be part of the broader wellness discussion. Our digital canvas can, however, also enable innovative wellness experiences and biophilic design.

What Are Wellness and Biophilia? 

The Global Wellness Institute defines ‘wellness’ as the pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health. It extends beyond physical health, and most models of wellness include at least six dimensions: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental. The physical, social, and cultural environments in which we live significantly influence these models.

Biophilia was popularized by Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, who defined it as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.” Especially as the world continues to urbanize, and many populations are now spending over 90% of their lives indoors, biophilia is growing increasingly important to our health and wellbeing. Covid-19 has only accelerated this phenomenon. Biophilic design has been gaining importance as a concept used within the architectural, design, and building communities to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment.

The Wellness Benefits of Home Theater

Home theater has been a core offering of our industry. Yet it is not part of the wellness discussion and rarely gets broached with customers within that context, even though recent industry research suggests that wellness is increasingly part of customer discussions.

A dedicated home theater’s primary focus is on the movie experience, the wellness benefits of which have been the subject of various research initiatives. Beyond the more obvious escape and distraction from the challenges and stress of daily life movies provide, most research focuses on a more profound impact on mental and physical health and well-being.DSC_0964

Watching movies can allow you to explore your emotions and provide insight and understanding into others’ lives. It can help you see things from a new perspective—a concept called cinematherapy. Another field of research is neurocinema, which shows a relationship between brain function and cinema and explores how different brain areas—related to vision, hearing, language, feelings, and emotions—activate while you watch a film. Cinema can even be physically stimulating. A study in the journal Heart found that laughing through a comedy could help dilate your blood vessels and improve blood flow, while also releasing endorphins, ‘happy hormones’ that help you feel more relaxed and well.

It stands to reason that watching a movie on a TV or mobile device does not give you the same level of immersion and suspension of disbelief you can experience in a dedicated home theater, which directly relates to the wellness benefits.

And the impact of a cinema can go further. As Sotheby’s real estate expert, Chris Adlam, was quoted as saying in a recent Wall Street Journal article on dedicated home theaters, “The most valuable thing you can ever have is time with the people you love. A private cinema is a place that draws people together.”

The wellness theme comes back when discussing art, as exemplified in this quote from Charu Gandhi, Director of Elicyon (a luxury interior design studio) in global real estate consultant Knight Frank’s 2018 Wealth Report, “Luxury collections are all about private enjoyment. My clients want to be able to enjoy their favorite pieces with their loved ones every day in the comfort of their home.”

Here as well, research suggests viewing art makes you healthier. The Norwegian Nord-Trondelag Health Study showed a correlation between participating in cultural activities and having good health, satisfaction with one’s life, and lower anxiety and depression rates. The same health benefits were found in people who both created or consumed the arts. Interestingly, women received more benefits from actively producing art, while men got more benefits from passively viewing art.

Art can even cause you to experience the same physical reactions we get when we fall in love. Professor Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist at University College London, scanned volunteers’ brains as they viewed 28 works of art. He found that when a person sees art they find beautiful, it triggers an immediate release of dopamine into the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, another ‘happy hormone’ related to feelings of love, pleasure, and desire. Click here to read my article on The Moving Canvas - 21st Century Digital Art in the Home

With video games as well, several scientific studies are suggesting a beneficial impact on physical and psychological well-being beyond the more obvious relaxation and escape. According to a review of research on the positive effects of video game play published by the American Psychological Association, they may boost learning, health, and social skills. They may also strengthen cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory, and perception. There is also a strong social dimension, with more than 70% of gamers playing with friends and millions of people worldwide participating in massive virtual worlds through multiplayer video games that have become virtual social communities.

Like with movies, the level of immersion makes an enormous difference. Video mapping a whole wall making a game ‘lifesize’ can provide an unprecedented level of immersion, that, I would argue, exceeds what a VR headset brings, especially when you share the space with loved ones.

ASO Loki OceanCreating Your ‘Window on the World’

Having taken a look at how some of the more traditional experiences we offer can and should have their place in wellness, I am most excited about an experience we’ve started calling ‘Window on the World’.

Here we essentially use our digital canvas to create something ranging from resembling an actual window to mapping an entire wall. The latter is my favorite as it opens up the experience of having ‘pushed over the wall’ and takes away the notion of ‘screen,’ which fundamentally changes how people experience it. Imagine using that to create a life-size ocean, mountain, or forest view. For example, homeowners can also use projection to bring the client’s ocean view streamed from their beach home into their city residence.

This offers manifold opportunities for biophilic design, the infusion of direct and indirect natural elements into our environment to fulfill our instinct to be close to nature. Essentially, biophilic design is at the intersection of architecture, nature, and neuroscience. Research shows that this holistic approach to design offers many health benefits – from reducing stress, blood pressure levels, and heart rates – to promoting creativity, productivity, and overall mental and physical well-being.

From a technology perspective, it’s also an interesting example of how the different technologies we use to create our digital canvas enable different experiences. In this case, with the architectural integration features built into our projectors, projection allows you to ‘push over the wall’ without being left with a big black hole when it’s just a wall, which opens up a whole new world for our customers and our industry.

LofotenBarco projectors can create a "Window on the World" that brings a space to life and promotes wellness in the home.

This article was written by HTA Resource Barco. Barco designs technology to enable bright outcomes around the world. Seeing beyond the image, it develops visualization and collaboration solutions to help you work together, share insights, and wow audiences. Its focus is on three core markets: Enterprise (from meeting and control rooms to corporate spaces), Healthcare (from the radiology department to the operating room), and Entertainment (from movie theaters to live events and attractions). In 2019, the company realized sales of 1.083 billion euro. Barco has a global team of 3,600 employees, whose passion for technology is captured in 400 granted patents.