Tyler Pridgen, an immersive technology specialist from the US, has taken his love of virtual reality and paired it with relaxation to create an intriguing spa concept. The Oddly Satisfying Spa features a curation of soothing experiences inspired by the rise of the #oddlysatisfying internet content which sees millions of people turning to YouTube and Instagram to watch strange, gratifying videos such as slime making and sand cutting.
“The spa was initially formed out of a desire to create and showcase immersive art and technology that calms and satisfies people,” says Pridgen, adding that the ‘feel good’ content is also a response to digital anxiety. “We need a sense of digital wellness. Just as we only put good food into our body, we also need to put good media into our brains.” To further combat tech-induced anxiety, guests have to check-in their phones at reception.
Launched as a three-day pop-up in New York in 2018, The Oddly Satisfying Spa includes treatments such as a massage with a VR headset projecting corresponding, meditative visuals – as a roller massages the back, people watch a ball meandering through a field of tall grass. This experience was developed in collaboration with Motherlode Labs, an all-female 3D art collective in New York.
In an ambient plant room created by Data Garden, a sensory device takes bio data and electrical impulses from plants and converts it into sounds via a midi music player. In a sand dome, people wear prism glasses while playing with moldable ‘kinetic’ sand to create a “completely hypnotic, unexpected and delightful” effect.
“I know a ton of VR creators, so I spent time exploring a lot of different pieces and looking for work that was simple, meditative and relaxing,” explains Pridgen. “My team then creatively built out the space to accommodate them. We covered a whole room in fur and fur structures for guests to lie on while viewing virtual reality guided meditation, for example.”
One of the most popular experiences, says Pridgen, is the Cosmic Sugar digital steamroom where people use hand controllers to manipulate 1 million glowing rainbow particles in VR headsets. The visuals are then projected around the room, which is also filled with ice-based fog. On top of this, as you move and manipulate the particles, reactive sound design creates a sound bath-type atmosphere. Cosmic Sugar is a VR project by artist and creative coder David Lobser. “It’s really amazing,” says Pridgen who adds that “the kinetic sand dome and slime bar were crowd favourites” as well.
The first Oddly Satisfying Spa in New York was held over three days and attracted 250 people who paid US$40 (€35, £31) for a 90-minute session. Pridgen is now looking to open a three-month installation in the city in second quarter of 2019. “Many of the treatments will remain the same, but each will be expanded to incorporate more guests and alleviate bottlenecks,” he says.
Pridgen is keen for The Oddly Satisfying Spa to become a permanent fixture although admits that long-term tech installations can be costly. Failing that, he says “we’d love to build digital relaxation spaces for traditional spas, hotels, museums, corporate offices and private residences.”
He adds: “We’re also very interested in leading more thought discussions on tech addiction and expanding the idea of ‘digital wellness’ by thinking about digital diets and healthy tech planning and awareness.”
Pridgen sees a natural partnership forming with other spas. “They have a really unique opportunity to explore concept and experience design more. People are entering these spaces and losing track of time and self, so there’s an opportunity to create a really transformative experience. Place them in a new world. Engage them in unexpected ways. Surprise them with creative, new interpretations of traditional treatments. I love that stuff and based on my experience with The Oddly Satisfying Spa, so do other people.
“My head is brimming with ideas and I’m excited to bring light, sound and digital media into spas in a calming, sensory and stimulating way.”