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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Fighting Phobia's with Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality, the practice of overlaying digital images on top of the real physical world, has been used for everything from BMW repairs to iPhone apps like the one created by the MGM Mirage to applications for teaching Spanish.

But now augmented reality is teaching people not to fear bugs, specifically Cockroaches. In a process known as "Exposure Therapy," researches are overwhelming people with virtual versions of their fears to help them overcome fear through increasing exposure to the item the person fears. Eventually, the person is taught to cope with the fear and the exposure to the stimuli helps them become more comfortable with the item they fear.

According to the article Treating Cockroach Phobia With Augmented Reality
In exposure therapy, the phobic person puts him or herself in the presence of whatever they fear--heights, spiders, etc.--until, through habituation, they lose their fear of that situation or object. The literature shows that exposure therapy works, but it has problems--for one, people who qualify as clinically phobic will often drop out of treatment when their psychologist tells them they've got to confront whatever their worst fear.

[A research study titled] Treating Cockroach Phobia With Augmented Reality describes, for the first time, a trial of augmented reality with a small group of people who all presented clinically significant levels of cockroach phobia. These six women reported problems that ranged from wanting to sell their apartments because they'd seen a cockroach or two in them to once spending two hours on top of a table, waiting for friends to arrive, after seeing a cockroach on the floor.

Patients were exposed, over the course of a single three hour session, to anything from a single stationary cockroach to up to 60 swarming, skittering bugs.

[After therapy] The results were a stunning: Study subjects went from a phobia so profound that it interfered with their lives to passing a "test" that involved walking into a room containing a cockroach in a tupperware container, removing its lid and placing their hand in it for at least a few seconds.

This has interesting implications for learning and development professionals. Learners who need to be trained to handle dangerous chemicals comfortably or to work in an environment with many conflicting stimuli could be trained using augmented reality to become more comfortable with their surrounds. It could also be used to train detectives to look for certain clues.

What do you think are the implications of using augmented reality?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The use of augmented reality to treat a cockroach phobia is an excellent example of using the technology to achieve something that might otherwise be unfeasible. (How likely is it that you could use 60 swarming real cockroaches?)

I'm thinking of digital flames for firefighter training as another possibility.