Esqapes Creator Micah Jackson Discusses Virtual Reality Massages and the Future of the Industry
Recently, Esqapes opened its very first virtual reality (VR) massage center in Los Angeles. Guests receive automated massage chairs while they are transported to a beautiful virtual destination—the experience is heightened with the addition of aromatherapy, sound, and the feeling of warmth and cool breezes. Offered in 30-minute sessions, it’s designed to be the perfect lunchtime mini-vacation without the hefty airline ticket.
I had the opportunity to speak with Micah Jackson, the virtual reality mastermind behind Esqapes. He shared what inspired him to create the world’s first VR wellness experience, what the future holds for Esqapes and the industry, and more.
What inspired the creation of Esqapes?
I began working on VR projects a couple of years ago, and one of the things I enjoyed doing on my own time was creating these beautiful worlds and just sitting in them. This led to a side project that focused on a beach setting, which ultimately led to the creation of Esqapes.
How does Esqapes induce relaxation?
We have a patent-pending process which not only combines a fully-immersive, VR environment with a massage, but our software also triggers external sensory elements like aromatherapy diffusers, fans, and heat sources which are all combined to “trick” the guest into believing they are in the virtual environment. One of my favorite examples of this is the Snowbank Cabin setting, where you’re seated in a luxurious, modern cabin in an isolated woodland area. The snow is softly falling outside and a crackling fireplace is in front of you. You can feel the warmth of the fire while the scent of cookies and cedar wood faintly fill the room. Everyone who has done this experience has dozed off in roughly 10 minutes. The sense of comfort and relaxation are really convincing.
What’s an Esqapes experience like?
Our aim is to help you relax amidst your regular, weekly routine. The Esqapes experience isn’t just the VR massage, but it begins as soon as you enter our space. When you open the door to our office, you’re greeted with pleasant aromas, a place to store your shoes and other items, and an indoor garden lounge. Even though we’re located in a small office space, we try to make the guests’ full experience a relaxing one. We encourage guests to arrive 15 minutes before their appointment so they can relax in our garden lounge and clear their head before experiencing their esqape.
What are the different Esqapes environments?
We currently have 10 different Esqapes experiences and they range from tropical beach resorts to a solitary, private sauna. We tried to make a variety of environments that appealed to a wide variety of interests and emotions. The Sauna is perfect for someone who likes the feeling of being sheltered as a raging thunderstorm rolls by. The Heavenly Garden is a great environment for nature lovers and someone who loves colorful worlds. Sunset Beach is perfect for the person who loves to gently float on the water and watch the tide come in. We have something for everyone!
How did you get into VR?
I was fascinated with VR from the first Oculus demo I experienced on the Walt Disney Studio Lot in 2015. Several years later, I resigned from my then-day job at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to pursue a career in VR. I was fortunate to be selected to participate in Oculus’ Launchpad program, which ultimately funded my first VR project.
Is virtual reality the future for the spa/wellness industry?
I think VR has something unique to offer the spa/wellness industry that hasn’t existed before. With Esqapes, we are able to transport people to a pleasurable, relaxing environment which significantly enhances the massage experience. In fact, many of our first customers were so relaxed they drifted off to sleep or forgot they were even getting a massage! I think VR will play a much larger role in mental wellness as the technology becomes more affordable and accessible.
Will Esqapes be adding more environments in the future?
Yes! In fact, I’m currently working on the next two Esqapes environments and more details will come in August. I won’t give away too much detail, but many people have expressed interest in being in Outer Space while receiving their massage. So…
Will Esqapes have more physical locations?
Hopefully, yes. Our goal is to bring Esqapes to office buildings, hotels, and other locations across the U.S. Outside of virtual reality and the other tech we employ, what makes Esqapes unique is that we’re bringing the spa experience to people where they work.
Any plans to make Esqapes an at-home experience?
Possibly. This would require some significant investment and partnership with massage chair and VR hardware manufacturers, but it’s not out of the question.
Esqapes is located at 5757 Wilshire Blvd, Suite M111 in the SAG-Aftra Building in Los Angeles. For more information and to book an appointment, visit myesqape.com and follow them on Instagram: @myesqape
[Images courtesy of Esqapes]
Kamala Kirk is a University of Southern California graduate and has been an editor/writer for more than a decade. She has written for E! Online, Total Beauty, TravelAge West, Malibu Times Magazine, and many more. She resides in Los Angeles and is a proud pug mom. Follow her on Instagram: @kamalakirk