Meditation app with synesthesia effect for sharpening, blending senses and activating mindfulness.
In this article, we will describe how our team developed a guided meditation app for our client, the project’s business challenges, the choices we’ve made, and our proud results for fighting the effects of chronic stress in life and discovering new abilities.
Quick information about the project with the main purpose
The Sensorium is a sensory meditation app that offers synesthetic mindfulness exercises to reawaken, sharpen and blend the senses. It is kind of a new meditation technique.
Why should we meditate at all? Our mind distracts us from the Here and Now in our daily busy life. Trying to fulfil the to-do list we often tend to run on auto-pilot ignoring the present moment, being cut off our energy source, missing the beauty of being alive. Some people fight stress in a different way like antidepressants and drugs but we know where this road leads in the long perspective.
With regular mindfulness exercises, we train our minds to be calmer and be more aware of what is happening around us at present. We learn to realize when our thoughts drift away to bring ourselves back to the here and now.
Synesthesia Meditation exercises greatly increase our sensory awareness. There are many scientifically proven benefits like deepening the Here and Now experience and cultivating the daily routine of mindful synaesthetic awareness. It dramatically enhances our cognitive abilities, memory, focus and creativity. Moreover, the resilience to stress and anxiety is being gained, as well as better sleep and concentration, calm and balanced state of mind, confidence, compassion and relationships improved.
Additionally, we train our brains and restructure neuronal connections positively. And be more aware of ourselves and the planet we live on. Practising on a regular basis is an investment into a happier life.
The Sensorium is good for both beginners and professional meditators, synesthetes, and people that would like to tune their senses.
Besides, each of us may have a gift we are not aware of. Synaesthesia is a neurological phenomenon, where the stimulation of one sense generates the experience of other senses. The ability to “see” music, to “taste” colours, or to perceive letters, numbers, and time units as colourful characters, and many others remain unnoticed in most people. And they are many, indeed.
The musician Annie Dickinson, for example, can hear colours and see sounds. You can find her speech about synesthesia in TED talks.
For Tori Amos, the singer, sounds are making light images, and she see songs as “light creatures”. The writer Vladimir Nabokov treated his synesthetic abilities rather like an annoying abnormality, the singer and musician Pharrell Williams on the contrary found it his main artistic source. Franz Liszt asked his orchestra musicians to make notes “a little bluer!”, Vincent Van Gogh, and many others are in this synesthesia company!
What about your own secret superpowers? Are you sure you do not miss the beauty and benefits of synesthesia? Aren’t you curious to find out? This meditation is a mix between mindfulness practices and synaesthetic exploration. Practice helps you to consciously perceive the synaesthetic experiences around you. Making it a 10 minutes daily ritual increases our life quality. The meditation app has over 150 exercises, the Garden of synesthesia and the Path of Mindfulness. Everything for enjoying traditional meditation is enriched with synaesthetic experiences.
About the client
So who created this little wonder? Marc-Jacques Maechler, the founder of the app and co-creator of synesthesia.com lives in Switzerland, Zurich, is a biologist, synesthete, the author of When Birds Sing Violet. His book is about synesthesia and what it is like to be a synesthete. Marc-Jacques invites everyone to try it, closing our eyes and diving into the fascinating world of colours, with the help of the magic of our mind. He tells about many possibilities for connecting the senses like assigning colours to numbers, letters, or weekdays. There are many more synesthetes in the world than commonly thought, and now we can practice it not only by reading a book but using a far more advanced way with the meditation app.
In fact, on his website synesthesia.com, there is a video where Marc-Jacques Maechler introduces the basics of interactive meditation, the diverse range of our experience in it, and how the Sensorium app works. He says, in order to perceive synesthetic experience you need to give attention and focus to it. Mindfulness is the process of shifting attention to the present moment. To support people in becoming aware of their synesthesia is the very reason the app was created for.
Stress is a huge demand for therapists, and every day more and more mindfulness techniques and new meditation practices are appearing. Modern apps give all this with the help of technology. For this reason, the meditation market is meaningful and profitable nowadays and there is no other way to join it than by being unique and offering a high-quality product.
It was not that easy, to be honest, for our client’s development team at the start. ZenBit joined the project after they would need to upgrade the app to new technology stack versions, so we switched to newer technologies and created a new version of the app.
Our client understood what people needed very well and our team found a way to include it in the app and how to make it all work together. We also studied the pain points within other existing meditation apps. Some requirements included users’ ability to manage their profile filling it with information, setting goals, tracking and sharing progress, etc.
Our client was looking for somebody with solid experience in React Native and the ability to move from a native app to a cross-platform solution. Ability to set up a scalable architecture, provide consultancy and advice about ways to implement best practices in the development process and improve code quality.
RN makes our client’s product delivery process much faster since everything is in one place. Moreover, React Native would be at least 30% cheaper to compare with native apps based on Java/Kotlin or Swift, and staying on budget is always appreciated. As for RN’s disadvantages, we were aware of them too. Though it would need more expertise to ensure high performance, our developers had enough skill and competence to deal even with the most complex business logic of the product design.
One of the main tasks supported in the development was dynamic generated UI from JSON, integrating scalable state management and implementing new exercises modules and user interactions.
Also, code review sessions and Pair Programming Sessions were also desired.
Before starting implementing new functionalities it is important to understand the portrait of the users and their pain points and clearly translate it to the delivery team. Better product understanding for the team is key to product success.
A clear picture of users and their key points was ready. People needed a way to improve their emotional well-being by practising synesthesia meditation and awareness. That’s the main goal that should result in making users more mindful and maybe discover new talents in themselves and improve the quality of their life in general. As for our target audience, they were busy, active and people, often on the go, people facing chronic stress or even some mental illness, people who forgot how does it feel being in the present moment, enjoying Here and Now. The benefits they could get using the app devotedly were numerous, from being more aware and reaching a higher level of consciousness to improving their mental health.
As for the major competitors in the market, we did not worry at all as the product was combining features that made it quite unique. There were many meditation apps available but synesthesia practice made Sensorium stand out.
During our communication with the client, we agreed upon the main features. The app design should be very simple in order to avoid any distractions or confusion. A progress tracker and statistics page was a must-have, as well as automatic notifications.
Redesigned user interface
As the first step of cooperation, we have done a code review and provided detailed reports about what would need to be improved and make the application scalable and stable for future improvements.
After code refactoring, updating dependencies, and improvements according to the suggested plan, we started to integrate new audio modules to extend the existing exercises flow. At the same time, we were working on implementing a new UI of the application.
A new type of exercises and modules
Another challenge that was solved is integrating scalable and easy-to-maintain modular base state management of the app. Which will help later add new exercises modules without any difficulties and increasing complexity of the app. It is highly important to keep a solid and clean structure of the product which will help later much easier to bring onboard new developers, reduce the time onboarding, simplify maintenance of the product and keep product documentation clean and simple which will positively reflect on the cost of maintenance.
Synesthesia has more than 70 exercises grouped into 5 sections. Hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, tasting – when combining them, you can increase the sensory awareness, the practice with lots of activities is in the Sense Sphere section. Ideasthesia, a special kind of synesthesia dealing with letters, numbers and calendars. The Garden of Synesthesia in general focuses on practices connected to the beauty of being in the present moment.
In Soundscapes, the ability to listen and perceive the music in a special attentive, mindful way is trained. The Daily Activities category is also very important for synesthetes, as well as Me and My Environment with the closer look of our body, nature sounds and people that surround you.
The different structure has Paths of Mindfulness. It is a detailed training plan for your mind divided into many steps with its own timing and more than 30 consecutive exercises. Three weeks of daily meditations and training. In the Path of mindfulness, there are sensory mindfulness sets where the mind is trained for better attention and focus. Awareness of the Senses is a set of exercises to refresh your senses both in your routine activities and when close to nature. Anyways, it is the Gateway is where your journey starts with more than three hours of immediately available practices, exercises and synesthesia tests.
The daily rituals involve all your senses. For many meditative practices, like in most meditation apps, you are passive just sitting and listening. But there are interactive multimedia sessions that motivate you to connect with your environment and discover it in a new way.
For example, in “Do You See Music In Shapes and Colors?” you are asked to close your eyes and sit in a comfortable position, the pleasant female voice is guiding you to listen to the music curiously, and answer some questions. Is this music light or dark? Does it have a shape? Do you sense colour in this music? When trying to touch it, is it smooth or rough? When trying to watch it as a movie, what are its movements, shapes, colours?
Adapted freemium approach
Sensorium has over 200 guided Synesthesia Meditations, each of them lasting 10 – 15 minutes, and the topics and focus are highly diverse. We made them all open for a seven days trial. Everything is spoken by Tori Louise, a professional Yoga instructor, and environmental educator. All the music is licensed. Mindfulness-based series content is also rich and varies from beginner to advanced levels. A whole week of synesthetic mindfulness for beginners, a week of introduction to sensory scans, a week introduction to breathing, a week introduction to synesthetic body scans, a week of deep exploration of the breath, a week of deepening body scan practice, and two weeks of deepening sensory scans practice. There are also Sound Based practices like Nature sound meditations, Soundscapes to experience music in colours, and Drawing sound.
We also put some extra single sessions like Falling asleep, Eating, Physical activities, Nature awareness, Seeing people in colours, Sensual perceptions. And Synesthesia tests, of course, with Grapheme and Calendar synesthesia.
This way the solution is to fulfil a free valuable content goal, making so many exercises and techniques in the open access. The app also left users the right to decide whether they want an advanced version of our meditation app or not. It is fair to have an idea of all the content and be able to try it for the whole week. The app contains two payment options to encourage long-term subscriptions.
We greatly appreciated our client’s feedback at the end.
Marc-Jacques Maechler admitted that his Synesthesia Team was in trouble in January 2019, they failed to stick to their timeline in the development of the Synesthesia Meditation App. Then the ZenBit team joined and our successful collaboration began. The communication was smooth, timelines were met.
Where the traditional meditation, synesthetic explorations and nature awareness techniques blend, Synesthesia Meditation is born. The application we were participating in enables people to perceive more of the beauty of this planet by regular practice. There are many benefits to mindfulness activities, such as less stress, more inner balance, improved focus, and better sleep. We are proud that we contributed to an investment in users’ health and life quality.
Our team strongly believes Sensorium will have success in the niche. Research-informed planning needed more research, and lots of different versions of the user flow, etc. Our successful cooperation is due to perfect communication, feedback, and mutual understanding with our client, and the implemented newest technology approaches and best practices and developers skills of course.
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