Monthly Archives: October 2014

Beyond gaming, the VR boom is everywhere—from classrooms to therapy couches

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“From trauma treatment to space exploration, VR is more than just fun and games.

While researchers have been proving the clinical value of virtual immersion therapy for decades now, the new wave of virtual reality technology has the potential to take the concept from the realm of academic research to widespread adoption by doctors and patients.

Even with today’s technology, a virtual reality version of a battlefield isn’t going to be as authentic as immersion therapy in the real world. Still, VR immersion therapy has been shown to be just as effective as “en vivo” real-world immersion therapy in treating everything from common phobias to deep-seated anxiety. Dr. Marat Zanov, a clinical psychologist and director of training at VR therapy firm Virtually Better, points to hundreds of clinical studies that have shown virtual therapy is “at least as effective as a real approach.”

The virtual classroom

We’re a long way from [a] kind of completely virtualized classroom, of course, but some teachers are taking the first steps toward it.

Mathieu Marunczyn is at the forefront of this effort. As the Information Communication Technology coordinator at the Jackson School in Victoria, Australia.

“[For] kids with sensory processing disorders, school days can be just overloading. [Virtual reality can provide] a way that you could carefully have them go into these environments that for them are peaceful,” he said.

While some are concerned that current virtual reality headsets are too isolating and anti-social for a learning environment, Marunczyn finds that VR has actually been a great tool for socialization for his students. “I don’t let these kids just drone out on it… They talk, they just chatter through it, and they want everyone around them to know [what they’re doing], even if they don’t really want to know,” he said.

“[I’ve valued] the language and discussions that have come out of it more than anything,” he continued. “Especially the first few times when they get lost in a new environment or whatever—there’s such huge interest in it and curiosity. In our environment, it’s those language skills, it’s the socialization that we really value. Parents have spoken to me a number of times—they said, ‘My son, he came home and he said he went out in space in your class. It was amazing!”

By Kyle Orland at Ars Technica

Read more: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/10/beyond-oculus-the-vr-boom-is-everywhere-from-classrooms-to-therapy-couches/

Why These Neuroscientists Are Prescribing Video Games

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“Video games as therapy? While most virtual reality falls under the category of mindless entertainment, a group of researchers believe the gaming world may offer some benefit to those on the autism spectrum.

A team comprised of cognitive neuroscientists and gaming technology experts created a game with potential therapeutic applications, as part of an ongoing research effort at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas. The virtual-reality program aims to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s, traumatic brain injury and other conditions that limit social cognition skills.

“Practicing social interaction in a safe, non-threatening, gaming environment helps people reduce anxiety and gain the confidence and skills they need to attempt more social interactions in their daily lives,” Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, the center’s founder and chief director, said in an email to The Huffington Post.”

By Carolyn Gregoire for The Huffington Post

Read more: http://huff.to/1thr6Cw

From bankers to first responders, virtual reality exposure therapy tackles PTSD

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“So how can doctors and patients successfully treat PTSD? One exciting method, Dr. Jetly says, is a high-tech approach to exposure therapy. This method sees the therapist employ virtual-reality computer software to place the PTSD-affected subject in an environment similar to what caused the trauma in the first place.

“It can be hard on the subjects, who don’t want to revisit these events,” says Dr. Jetly. “But it does work.”

Another developing area of research focuses on decreasing the chances people develop PTSD in the first place. A program developed by the Canadian Forces teaches practical skills to enhance resiliency during and after a potentially traumatic event. The skills are similar to the visualization techniques used by elite athletes.”

By Dr. James Aw for National Post

Read more: http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/10/28/from-bankers-to-first-responders-ptsd-affects-more-people-than-we-admit/

Virtual Reality Therapy Shows New Benefits

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Image courtesy of USC INSTITUTE FOR CREATIVE TECHNOLOGIES.

“Virtual-reality therapy exposes PTSD patients to scenes that recall their trauma, such as the Iraq war. Patients Now Include Sexual-Assault and Car-Crash Survivors.

For some veterans of war, recovering from trauma means going back to the battlefield.

The battlefield isn’t real, however, nor are the gunfire and soldiers. But the scene is as a veteran like Chris Merkle remembers it. Behind a pair of virtual reality goggles, Mr. Merkle is once again invading Iraq on one of his longest days. Gunfire erupts, and he sees Iraqi men go down, not knowing whether he shot them or someone else did. He has no time to question, he is on the move. In his mind, he is back at war.

When Mr. Merkle removes his goggles, he is back at the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in Long Beach, Calif. The clinic is one of dozens of centers in the U.S. using virtual-reality exposure therapy, an increasingly popular treatment method for mental-health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias and anxiety.”

By CAITLIN MCCABE of The Wall Street Journal

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/articles/virtual-reality-therapy-shows-new-benefits-1413841124

Video games could make kids better, healthier people

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“For all the talk about how video games may rot our kids’ brains (they’ve been linked to lower academic performance in college students and a lack of empathy in teens), there’s evidence that they can be used for good.

There’s mounting data that specially-designed video games (known as “serious games”) can increase knowledge and change behavior in youth. In particular, they can have a positive influence on the way kids think and act about their health. That’s good news because 97 percent of young Americans play computer, Internet, mobile or console games, and 50 percent play daily.”

By Lynn Fiellin at The Washington Post

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/10/15/video-games-could-make-kids-better-healthier-people/

Virtual reality can help people conquer their phobias

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“Exposure therapy has proved a highly successful treatment for phobias, but it’s impractical for things such as fear of public speaking or flying. The answer may be virtual reality.

“Phobics know that when they see a little spider on the counter, they shouldn’t be panicking because technically it’s not dangerous,” says Stéphane Bouchard, a psychologist at the University of Quebec. “They’ll tell you, ‘I know this is crazy.’ But because they keep avoiding, their limbic system keeps associating spiders with danger or extreme disgust and they never undergo that corrective experience.”

For many types of phobia, however, traditional exposure therapy is not feasible. Crippling fears of public speaking or flying, for example, can be difficult to tackle practically. Over the past 10 years the solution has increasingly been the virtual world, utilising some of the technologies that brought us 3D cinema.”

By David Cox at The Guardian

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2014/oct/16/virtual-reality-phobias-public-speaking-flying

3-D technology used to combat phobias, PTSD (Video)

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“To enhance the effectiveness of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and animal phobias, the University of Texas UT3D program is now using its technology to create the illusion of being exposed to a fear, without having to come into direct contact.

The 3-D Fear Project was created in collaboration with the radio-television-film department and the psychology department. It uses an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and sound cancellation headphones to expose the patient to what they fear in the most realistic environment possible. Sean Minns, radio-television-film visiting student researcher, said using regular video to combat phobias is not enough.”

BY ADAM HAMZE at Daily Texan

Read more: http://www.dailytexanonline.com/2014/09/30/3-d-technology-used-to-combat-phobias-ptsd