Just in time for Halloween, a new study of the use of virtual reality to treat spider phobia indicates that touching the fuzzy creepy-crawlers can make the therapy twice as effective.
Grabbing a virtual spider. Researchers report that adding touch to a VR program to decrease spider phobia appears to double the effectiveness of the therapy.
Photo credit: Hunter Hoffman, University of Washington
Researchers at the University of Washingtons Human Interface Technology (HIT) Lab measured aversion and anxiety responses of students, some of whom had a clinical phobia of spiders, before and after undergoing VR therapy. During the therapy, some of the subjects touched a realistic model of a large spider while grasping a virtual one. Those participants were able to come twice as close to a real spider after completing three therapy sessions, and reported a greater decrease in anxiety during treatment, than those who underwent VR therapy alone.
The study, titled "Interfaces that Heal: Coupling Real and Virtual Objects to Treat Spider Phobia," will be published tomorrow in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction (vol. 16, No. 2).
Rob Harrill | University of Washington
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