Virtual reality therapy helps overcome acrophobia
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Utilising the way people think is one of the most astonishing ways in which technology can function. From blockchain technology tackling extremist views to children learning about anti-discrimination via an online soccer game, its use is seemingly endless.
Researchers from University of Oxford spinout Oxford VR have optimised virtual reality to help those with a fear of heights overcome their phobia. The team has developed a VR programme in which psychological therapy is delivered by a computer-generated virtual coach. Users receive personalised treatment, therefore being able to interact with the virtual coach using voice recognition technology. A random selection of one hundred people with a fear of heights received either the VR therapy or no treatment. Participants had, on average, lived with a fear of heights for 30 years. Those who received the therapy spent an average of two hours in VR over five treatment sessions. All participants in the VR group showed a reduction in fear of heights, with the average reduction being 68 percent. Furthermore, half of the participants in the VR group had a reduction in fear of heights by over three quarters.
The study, published in The Lancet, concludes that psychological therapy delivered automatically by a VR coach can produce large clinical benefits. It also predicted the future potential for a variety of other mental health disorders.
Spotted by Peter Gibson, written by Springwise.
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