Virtual reality helping more than just gamers

Virtual Reality has long been a fantasy for video gamers, and it seems that technology has finally caught up with dreams. Oculus Rift and other high-end headsets have taken the visuals to a whole new level.

Sony’s Playstation VR headset is about to fulfill the dreams of six-year-olds and fifty-year-olds alike by putting Star Wars fans into the cockpit of an X-wing starfighter. And Virtuix Omni gets gamers off the couch and into a VR motion platform that allows them to run on a special 360 degree treadmill as they navigate through the VR world of a game.

Although VR has been around for some time, the accessibility and affordability is changing the market and its applications. One such field that is exploring the potential is therapy. Here, things in the real world that trigger our fears can be safely recreated with a therapist.

Veterans with PTSD can relive their trauma every day, but now they can safely work through the trauma as it is recreated in a controlled environment. For example, the University of Central Florida’s PTSD clinic has a free three-week program that has shown a 66% success rate in patients.

VR is expanding beyond the visuals and audio. Full immersion can be achieved by therapists with the use of sensors in gloves and clothing. Haptic suits, for example, use electrodes to simulate touch and can be controlled from a handheld interface  -- from a tickle or a light breeze to getting punched in the gut.

Someone afraid of spiders would not only be able to see a spider crawling on their leg, but feel it too. Heat sensors and the incorporation of smells during therapy sessions further immerse patients and tap into their senses.

Watch the video to see virtual therapy in action and how one veteran overcame his PTSD at the University of Central Florida’s PTSD clinic.