Can VR Help Overcome Your Fear of Spiders?
Samsung’s VR experiment is showing results for people suffering from arachnophobia in just three hours.
The Nordic division of Samsung has been investigating what people in the region fear the most. To no surprise at all, one of the biggest fears identified in their survey was the fear of spiders. The survey also showed that two out of three with an irrational fear felt restricted in their everyday life.
Fears and phobias are not to be taken lightly and can be a debilitating challenge for many to overcome. But thanks to the immersive power of VR, we are seeing more and more experiments with the technology to assist in a form of exposure therapy.
The latest experiment from Samsung placed four Nordic influencers who suffered from a fear of spiders in a room with a serious looking tarantula spider in a glass jar. Their initial distance threshold was tested, having the participants see how close they could get to the spider before freaking out. The answer: They didn’t get very close.
The spider was then removed from the room and the participants were asked to sit down and put on a Gear VR headset loaded up with a VR experience called Itsy. The Itsy app is a game based on psychological methods developed by Swedish startup Mimerse, gradually exposing you to spiders that look more and more realistic over a three hour timespan. The app at first starts out with a spider wearing shoes and a helmet and eventually gets to the point where they are crawling straight towards you while you must force yourself to hold your gaze in this half game half exposure therapy experience.
After three hours of VR exposure therapy, one participant takes off her Gear VR and is able to not only walk up to the spider, but actually stick her hand in and pick it up. Quite some progress.
You can view the one participants experience below:
Although the simulation is artificial, the emotional response is not. And with VR experiences like this, developers can create learning experiences that are safer, cheaper and possibly more effective than real life counterparts.
We can only hope more professionals continue to explore new ways VR can be a useful tool for exposure therapy over the coming years, especially with early experiments showing promise thus far. Earlier this year, Samsung also helped push people to new heights in an experience aimed at helping participants overcome their fear of heights in VR and another developer created a Google Cardboard app to assist with tackling your fear of public speaking.
What do you think? What other phobias or fears would you like to see addressed in VR?
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