Virtual Reality As Medicine?

It is no surprise that virtual reality and augmented reality devices are becoming more mainstream in the world of entertainment. Although the gaming industry has dominated the images and videos with men and women of all ages "plugging in" to escape the drudgery of everyday life. However, there is growing interest in the therapeutic and educational aspects of virtual reality. Due to the immersive power of the technology, researchers are finding new, inventive ways of fooling the brain towards recovery (both psychology and physiologically).

There have been multiple studies in which an immersive virtual environment can reduce the pain sensory of burn victims in ICU wards, as well as help soldiers deal with the PTSD effects sustained from war injuries. Even though this is an extremely promising advantage of non-invasive techniques of healing, there is even more evidence that virtual immersive environments can reduce general anxiety affecting hundreds of millions of adults.

"One in four people will experience some sort of mental health problem this year. Could virtual-reality programs help to deal with the increased demand for treatment?"

In the article, "Could Virtual Reality Treat Anxiety," it has been shown that various techniques such as body swapping, realistic exposure therapy, and true multi-sensory immersion can greatly reduce stress in the brain of many common psychological conditions (i.e. acrophobia and agoraphobia). Furthermore, body-swapping is an interesting technique in which two people (and usually of opposite gender), both wearing virtual reality goggles, exchange their personal POV with the help of external cameras and exchange software. It has been shown to greatly increase the feeling of empathy towards others and especially towards the opposite sex.

There is even forecasting that in the not-so-distant future doctors will tend to prescribe virtual reality treatments as a non-chemical alternative to pill-based medication in helping people with a wide assortment of physical and emotional issues. Whatever the case, there is a widespread concern with the opioid abuse problem that has given a rather massive black eye to the current pharmaceutical industry. Many alternatives are being investigated, and virtual reality just may be the antidote the brain needs.

What do you think? Could virtual reality be used as a viable, mainstream source of therapy? What type of app or onscreen assets would you like to experience in a virtual reality space? The creators at KameaVR would love to read your input.

~James Emley (Co-creator at KameaVR)

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