Full Body Immersive Virtual Reality System with Motion Recognition Camera Targeting the Treatment of Spider Phobia
Exposure Therapy (ET) is one of the most widely-used methods for treating Specific Phobias, and, over the past few years, Virtual Reality (VR) has contributed significantly in this field, since the birth of what we call “Virtual Reality ET” (VRET). However, VR systems used in VRET so far do not fully integrate ET characteristics; the reason behind this is that they do not provide sufficient, or occasionally not any at all, interaction with the feared stimulus, which is a key factor for full ET implementation. Objective: The aim of our study is to propose a way to include natural interaction between the patient and the system during the treatment procedure. Method: We propose an addition to current session protocols for mental health professionals through which they can apply ET in full extent with the use of motion tracking sensors. Specifically, we added a Motion Recognition Camera, which tracks the patient’s movements and places their physical body within the virtual environment, increasing their feeling of presence and making the system more immersive. Therefore, clinicians can assign interactive tasks for their patients to practice within a controlled virtual environment. Results: We present the feedback we received regarding the system’s potential utility and efficiency by a group of psychiatry professionals who tried the system. Impact: With real-time interaction and VRET, patients stand a better chance to truly acquire the necessary skills to overcome their phobias.
KeywordsVirtual reality Cognitive behavioral treatments Exposure therapy Anxiety disorders Specific phobias Motion tracking sensor Motion recognition camera Presence Clinical treatment Immersion
We would like to thank the executive managers and members of the stuff of the General and Oncology Hospital of Kifissia for agreeing to provide the opportunity to present our work to them and receive their feedback.
At this point, we would like to discuss the expertise of the healthcare facility members we used as evaluators of our system a bit further. The medical staff of the facility we chose consists of experienced, well-trained, highly educated psychiatrists and healthcare attendants, who agreed to test our proposed system and provide their substantial feedback on its efficiency, as well as methods of enhancing it in the future. All of the members have graduated from reputable medical universities and have frequently assisted patients in treating their obsessive/irrational thought and behavioral patterns through exposure therapy sessions. Another important aspect of our preference in this particular psychiatric department is their constant quest for innovative diagnostic and therapeutic techniques. Our system and method are quite original; subsequently, they were highly interested in the new methods in which ET can be enhanced through VR technology. Taking the aforementioned facts into consideration, it is clear that our choice in this particular psychiatric department was everything but coincidental; we strongly believe that the clinic’s specialists were the most fitting to evaluate the efficacy of our system in view of their experience and education.
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