Is Headspace XR really what Gen Z needs?

The experience aims to save Gen Z from loneliness, using Meta’s platform insights, Headspace’s mindfulness philosophies and techniques, and Nexus Studios’ strategic innovation and design. But is it just further overcomplicating a 2500-year-old practice?

14 March 2024


Headspace and Meta has launched Headspace XR, a mixed and virtual reality experience built primarily for Gen Z users to “strengthen their mind-body connection”. Developed by film, animation and experience design producers, Nexus Studios, it is designed with the intention of engaging younger audiences – primarily Gen Z – with its available mindfulness and meditation tools. “Players can learn how to incorporate these techniques into their daily lives, while also participating in positive socialisation and community building with their friends,” says the meditation and health company in its press release.

Nexus’ relationship with Headspace and Meta goes back many years, with the studio creating the first collection of animations for the app for its launch, making it a perfect fit to visually translate its mindfulness principles and techniques. But bringing Headspace into the world of XR isn’t without its challenges, rightful skepticisms and alarm bells of a dystopian future, especially for the future of a generation already overly immersed in the screen. According to What’s the Big Data, the global average daily screen time is 6 hours and 58 minutes (increasing by an average of 50 minutes per day since 2013), and Gen Z average the highest at 7 hours and 15 minutes. These statistics alone aren’t signifying that increased screen time denotes poorer mental health, but they do suggest a need for mental health support outside of devices and our homes. So why was it important for Headspace to travel from an app in our phones to an all-immersive VR experience, when mindfulness and meditation have always been about being present, aware and free from being overwhelmed?


Nexus Studios: Treehouse, Headspace XR, Meta (Copyright © Headspace, 2024)

According to Nexus executive creative director, Deborah Casswell, the growth of Headspace into XR is more about being “a rare distraction-free zone. There’s no double screening, no pop-ups, a general great place for beginners to practice mindfulness”. As much of the focus on Gen Z is centred around Headspace’s mission to alleviate loneliness, Nexus has tailored its design to address a variety of needs, including a feature to check in and share how they’re feeling, using mood filters including: happy, angry, anxious, lonely, sad or bored.

There is also the presence of a tailored feature providing ‘teacher’s guidance’ in regards to their mood, allowing them to access advice when required. It also allows users to hang out with up to eight friends – given that they also have Headspace XR – by invite, that Deborah sees as the “most magical feature” and a way to bridge the gap between friends and families that don’t live near each other. “I have been working from home and meeting my colleagues in VR for two years now and personally it has helped me feel much more connected and less isolated,” she adds.

When starting the project, the studio established a clear purpose-driven vision and clear design principles. Firstly, to help people to form a mindfulness habit, then remember that mindfulness is to inspire every facet of the project – from the avatars to the UI, the world design and all the other tiny fragments – and lastly, establishing a relevancy for the audience. “We all gathered around these guiding principles every week for nearly two years. They formed the basis of decisions big and small,” Deborah shares.

Being that the experience is the first of its kind, it’s being linked to a world of innovation, but the team also wanted to invent new ways to display high-fidelity art in an open world. From providing new ways to use your hands with the slingshot locomotion, to avatars having an expressive customisation mechanic. “Fundamentally, we were inventing new ways to experience these science-backed mindfulness techniques. All of this takes a lot of experimentation and iteration which is hard to plan for.” But this science isn't to be confused with the technology; it points to the benefits of the Headspace app, not necessarily the benefits of mindfulness through virtual reality. So while it’s amazing to see the millennium’s oldest practice brought to yet another audience, we have to ask ourselves as we do with any innovation: is Headspace XR a useful tool beyond traditional mindfulness or even its preceding mobile app, or is it ironically just another complicated distraction?

Headspace XR is available on Meta Quest, you can find more information here.


Nexus Studios: Multi Player, Headspace XR, Meta (Copyright © Headspace, 2024)


Nexus Studios: Blue Sky Tower, Headspace XR, Meta (Copyright © Headspace, 2024)


Nexus Studios: Take a Beat, Headspace XR, Meta (Copyright © Headspace, 2024)


Nexus Studios: Power Up, Headspace XR, Meta (Copyright © Headspace, 2024)

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Nexus Studios: Headspace XR, Meta (Copyright © Headspace, 2024)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) was previously a staff writer at It’s Nice That. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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