Ricky Rockley

by Janet Dabbs
Lake Christian Academy graduate Ricky Rockley was one of a team of innovators from Team StoryUp in Columbia, that won an award at the 11th Annual SXSW Pitch Sunday, March 10 in Salon, Del. StoryUp won the award for their project “Healium” in the Augmented and Virtual Reality category.
At the competition, Rockley and Team StoryUp were required to “pitch” their product in front of a live audience and panel of expert judges. The products were advancements in various sectors of emerging technology.
The 2019 SXSW Pitch featured 50 international interactive technology companies competing in 10 categories including Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Blockchain, Enterprise and Smart Data, Entertainment and Content, Health and Wearable, Hyper-Connected Communities, Social and Culture, Sports and Performance Data, and Transportation and Delivery. There were five teams per category.
Rockley currently works at StoryUp as the Virtual Reality (VR) design lead and developer, where he is a 3D artist and developer, building virtual worlds and applications.
Healium is a VR solution that uses EEG feedback to reduce moderate stress and self-reported anxiety and is focused on neuro meditation.
“We allow the user to control the AR and VR experiences using their brain,” Rockley explained. “They do this by using a wearable with a VR headset, except this is a muse brain sensing headband, a brain-computer interface wearable.”
The wearable reads electrical activity from the frontal portion of the brain and gives a high-level overview of what is happening in the user’s brain. The user puts on the headband and, essentially, the experience asks the wearer to think positive thoughts.
“We know what electrical activity looks like when someone is thinking positive thoughts,” Rockley explained. “As they think positively, they drive the experience.”
According to StoryUp, Healium is the world’s first VR mindfulness channel powered by the user’s brain and heart rate. The biometrically controlled VR and AR stories actually heal themselves via data from the user’s wearables.
“The main purpose is stress and anxiety reduction,” Rockley said. “We live in a world that is very young in its concerns with mental health and there is a big stigma tied to it. We want to provide a healthy escape.”
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is the basic cause of 60 percent of all human illness and chronic stress causes premature aging in the brain, which has 100 billion connections. Less stressed people are 300 percent more creative and studies show that job stress costs U.S. businesses $300 billion annually, due to absenteeism and productivity loss.
Sara Hill is CEO and chief story teller at StoryUp. Hill is a 20-year veteran of the interactive media industry. She is a national Edward R. Murrow, Sigma Delta Chi, and 12-time mid-America Emmy award-winning storyteller.
Hill got into virtual reality and was successful at creating a VR headset experience for aging and terminally ill veterans who weren’t able to physically travel to their memorials in Washington D.C. It was realized that as the veterans experienced the VR trip they were happy, their breathing changed, and a calming effect was noted. As a result, the veterans also experienced more energy in their arms and legs. Hill studied these effects and the StoryUp AR and VR program was born. “It’s a drug-less solution that makes you more aware of your emotions,” Hill said. “It’s not necessarily health care, it’s self-care.”
“Even with diagnostic EEG at a hospital, rarely do you get the opportunity to watch your brainwaves react in real-time,” Hill said. “In a VR headset, it’s mesmerizing. As the user watches their pattern move across the screen wearing the headband, it’s as if they’re seeing their neurological reflection for the first time. They aren’t just watching the experience. In a way, they’re feeling it. We want people to understand that their thoughts have power in the digital world, and in the real world, and they can reduce stress and anxiety in acute situational stress.”
The StoryUP team also won the CES Pitch competition for Healium Jan. 3 in Las Vegas, Nev. That competition highlighted technology that is creating social connection.
Rockley will travel to the Netherlands this June to pitch Healium at the Global Entrepreneur Summit (GES).
Along with Hill and Rockley, the award winning StoryUp team includes 15-time mid-America Emmy award winning videographer Scott Schaefer (Bloomberg News, E!, NBCsports.com, and ESPN), Media Entrepreneur Jim Spencer, founder of Newsy and partner and content lead for NBC News, Ask Jeeves and AOL; Neurofeedback Specialist Dr. Jeff Tarrant whose medical work at the Neuromeditation Institute has focused on technology-based interventions; and fixed frame cinematographer Kyle Perry.
Rockley is a 2007 Graduate of Lake Christian Academy in Sunrise Beach. After graduating, he worked a few jobs, including teaching at Lake Christian Academy and he did a stint in sub-freezing temperatures on the oil fields of North Dakota.
He attended the Art Institute of Kansas City, where he earned a degree in game art and design.
After college, he was employed by Apple as a technician and then as project manager and lead designer at Acadental in Kansas City, Kan., where he created digital education programs for dental students.
Rockley’s parents, Bill and Sharon Rockley, live in Sunrise Beach.