It's a well-known tenet of psychology that to overcome your fears, you have to face them. But in some cases, that's difficult or even impossible to do -- how do you face your fear of falling, for instance? According to a new Spanish study, augmented reality could provide an answer.
An augmented reality system did a bang-up job of freaking out people with cockroach phobia, the study says. No word yet on whether it helped the patients overcome those fears -- so far, the goal was simply to find out whether an AR system could sufficiently induce anxiety.
Participants sat at a desk with a computer, wearing a virtual reality headset. The headset had a camera, so the person wearing it would see a video of the desk she was looking at -- but covered in virtual cockroaches. Six female study participants reported extremely high anxiety levels when presented with the simulated cockroaches, notes Richard Landers, an industrial psychologist at Old Dominion University, who writes about the technique on his blog.
In the study, a therapist would control how many cockroaches a patient was ready to see, gradually increasing the number of them over several therapy sessions. Over time, the patient would see more and more cockroaches, but nothing bad would ever happen to him or her. Eventually, voila -- phobia cured.
The same system has already been used to treat phobia of small animals, the authors say. On behalf of the roach patients in this study, here's hoping it cures them as efficiently as it scared them.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.