19 Dec 2015

Treating phobias with virtual reality

From This Way Up, 12:35 pm on 19 December 2015
Kristen Brown

Kristen Brown Photo: Supplied

Psychologists and counsellors are finding virtual reality (VR) headsets an effective tool for the treatment of our deepest fears and anxieties.

With a profusion of VR hardware coming onto the market (including Samsung's Gear, Microsoft's HoloLens, Sony's Project Morpheus and the Oculus Rift) the prospects for virtual reality technology seem endless, and not just for gaming either.

For example, it's being used to train bus drivers to get used to new road layouts, and a new wave of innovation is targeting opportunities in areas like family photos, messaging, DIY and product assembly instructions.

At the heart of VR's appeal is its ability to simulate the real world in an entirely immersive, realistic and coherent way. This is also proving useful for psychologists and counsellors treating our anxieties and phobias, conditions that affect 1 in 10 of us during our lifetimes according to the Royal College of Psychiatry.

Simon Morton gets the latest from technology reporter Kristen V Brown, who recently saw these virtual treatments in action.