When new technology enters the market, it almost always has the spend it’s first few years fighting off claims of being a gimmick, something that is no use to the everyday person. In this regard, immersive technology is no different. With VR fast becoming the next big thing in gaming and the biggest AR app in the world being a Pokemon game it is easy to see immersive tech as cool entertainment gimmicks but nothing beyond that. However, there’s some fascinating projects happening with immersive tech that is changing lives.
In 1997, Georgia Tech researchers decided to use VR as exposure therapy for veterans that served in Vietnam suffering from PTSD. A therapist manipulated the sounds and sights to mimic a war scene not dissimilar to what the veterans might of experienced while the patient told of their trauma. All ten patients showed significant improvement after just a month of treatment. The program was such a success that after the September 11th terrorist attack, a researcher who worked on the previous program, JoAnn DiFede, began using VR to treat victims suffering with PTSD.
To this day, the US army uses VR as a treatment for PTSD with it’s veterans as part of it’s hugely successful Bravemind treatment program. Veterans who went through this program reported having a better time coming to terms with the events they witnessed, a reduce in panic attacks and some veterans reported being able to sleep without medication for the first time in years.
With innovation and passion driving the immersive tech industry, prices for hardware are becoming more and more affordable. From the Hololens to the Google Cardboard, there is VR hardware at every price point making the future of immersive tech to help treat mental health issues like PTSD more and more appealing world over.
The issue still stands that currently, it is hard to take immersive tech therapy outside of academia. The pushback from the mainstream has been overwhelming at times, however, times are changing. There are some NHS funded hospitals that are turning to VR for pain management, there is a union for VR therapies with international conventions that pull in thousands of people every year. The conversation is changing and because of that, more accessible, cheaper therapy through immersive tech is on the horizon, mark our words.