March 20, 2016

...AND CHEAPER...:

Can virtual reality cure phobias? : Research suggests that Oculus Rift-style headsets are proving a useful therapeutic tool (James Witts, 20 March 2016, The Guardian)

In March 2014 Mark Zuckerberg dipped into his deep pockets to buy Oculus Rift for $2bn, proclaiming to the world that after many fits and starts, virtual reality would stick. Now Oculus Rift is on the verge of being launched to the masses, with a promise of greater immersion and more realism than ever before.

CG-rendered games will be the main driver, but growing evidence and use by clinicians suggests that VR could become a common tool for therapists. "The potential to treat phobias and fears is huge," explains Chris Brewin, professor of clinical psychology at University College London. "In fact I'd put money on this becoming an important part of mental health treatment."

Brewin speaks from experience. He and his team took 15 people being treated for depression by the NHS and strapped VR units around their heads. First they were shown an adult avatar, which replicated the patient's body movements via haptic (touch) technology. This is a process known as "embodiment".

"That's the key difference between this form of therapy and traditional therapy," says Brewin. "When people are embodied in an avatar in a virtual world, their perception and emotional responses change to be consistent with that avatar."

And PTSD.
Posted by at March 20, 2016 7:42 AM

  

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