Author: Mika Uitto, Project Manager in Digital Solutions Expertise Group, Lapland University of Applied Sciences
The Frostbit Software Lab
in Lapland University of Applied Sciences has developed Green Care
Virtual Reality environment that relax but also actives people in forest
environments. Development work was enabled and resourced by the Active Arctic project.
On Forest Visitor VR (In Finnish: Metsänkävijä VR) there are two
different scenarios. One where the user finds himself in middle of the
forest surrounded by nature with animals to spot and mushrooms to be
picked and another one with calming lake environment with sound of the
lake water and birds and with a possibility to fish with traditional
bait fishing pole.
Green Care solutions, which involve the use of nature-based
interventions such as ecotherapy animal-assisted therapy and gardening,
have been shown to have a positive impact on various aspects of
well-being, including physical, psychological, and social well-being.
One study conducted in the Netherlands found that engaging in
horticultural activities, such as gardening, had a positive effect on
physical health by reducing stress and increasing physical activity
levels (van den Berg et al., 2010). Another study conducted in the
United States found that animal-assisted therapy had a positive impact
on psychological well-being by reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety,
and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Barker & Dawson, 1998).
Ecotherapy, which involves nature-based interventions to improve mental
health, has also been shown to positively impact psychological
well-being. A review of 10 studies on ecotherapy found that it was
associated with significant improvements in symptoms of depression,
anxiety, and stress (Summers & Vivian 2018).
However, not everyone has easy access to nature and green spaces.
Virtual reality (VR) green care applications can provide a solution for
people who are unable to physically access nature. These applications
can provide immersive experiences that simulate natural environments and
can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels (Valtchanov et al., 2010).
One study found that a VR forest environment had a calming effect on
participants and reduced their stress levels. The results pointed out
that there is increasement in relaxation, attention restoration and
clearing one’s thoughts effects among the participants (Mattila et al.,
“Metsänkävijä VR” solution has been tested around Finnish Lapland by
multiple elderly housing service providers and designed further with
their feedback. Testing has also been arranged with disabled people,
mental car unit staff and with children with autism spectrum. The
feedback has been useful and further personalized development is wanted.
Picture 1. Testing VR forest environment at Lapin Muistiyhdistys, Päivätoiminta Onnimanni.
Solutions were taken into testing in a very open-minded way and with
no fear for modern technology. Although, with disabled people the
testing pointed out that the setup of testing needs specific approach
and help from familiar nurses. User centric design has critical impact
in this kind of application case as it is designed in plug & play
These solutions have enormous potential also in mental healthcare of
young people as a motivating environment to go more often out to nature
but also in virtual travelling field.
Picture 2. Testing VR forest environment at Rovaseudun hoivapalvelut, Seutulanharjun hoivakoti.
In summary, Green Care solutions are important for various aspects of
well-being, and VR Green Care applications can provide content for
people who are unable to go out to nature. These interventions may
positively impact physical, psychological, and social well-being and
improve quality of life.
The importance of projects like Active Arctic cannot be underlined
enough. It is crucial to make these solutions familiar to the target
groups. In the project we are finding best practices to digitalize
well-being sector, including SME’s, research organizations and
increasing knowledge of solutions to public sector. Main actions of the
project are to:
- increase awareness of digital solutions on market currently and upcoming ones in near future,
- collide ICT sectors solutions and companies with well-being and healthcare domain,
- find new business models and activities from digital solutions implementation,
- define how Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) of wellbeing sector could be
established to Finnish Lapland in best conceivable way, and to
- actively network and establish collaboration between actors.
For further inquiries, please contact Active Arctic Project Managers: Tuuli Tikkanen (tuuli.tikkanen(a)lapinamk.fi and
Ella Björn (ella.bjorn(a)ulapland.fi)
Barker, S. B., & Dawson, K. S. (1998). The effects of
animal-assisted therapy on anxiety ratings of hospitalized psychiatric
Valtchanov, D., Barton K. R., Ellard, C. (2010).Restorative Effects of Virtual Nature Settings
(Summerrs, J. K. & Vivian, D. N.). Ecotherapy – A Forgotten
Ecosystem Service: A Review
van den Berg, A., E., Groenewegen, P.,P., Maas, J., Verheij, R. A.
(2010). Green space as a buffer between stressful life events and health
Mattila , O , Korhonen , A , Pöyry , E , Hauru , K , Holopainen , J
& Parvinen , P 2020 , ' Restoration in a Virtual Reality Forest
Environment ' , Computers in Human Behavior , vol. 107 , no. June ,
> Return to the Lapland UAS Blog front page
> Siirry Pohjoisen tekijät -blogin suomenkieliselle etusivulle