Virtual Reality crucial for psychiatry; Studies

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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As the potential of virtual reality (VR) to treat diseases and phobias such as Alzheimer’s and arachnophobia grows, mass adoption will dramatically boost its therapeutic potential, experts revealed during the Fireside Chat at Dubai Internet City.

The most recent session comes after a series of research indicating that VR has become crucial in the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric conditions such as acrophobia (fear of heights), arachnophobia (fear of spiders), and glossophobia (fear of public speaking) has come to light.

Daniel Khayat, Head of Product at HTC VIVE, Dr. Sameer Kishore, Head & Founder of Immersive VRx Lab and a Senior Lecturer at Middlesex University Dubai and Niclas Wijkstrom, Mimerse’s co-founder and CEO spoke at the event.

It was hosted by Dubai Internet City, the largest hub for talent and technology in the region. The Dubai Internet City has been in the forefront to regularly bring together key voices from the industry to share experiences and insights on the emerging technology landscape.

Wijkstrom, the co-founder of Mimerse said VR is generating new avenues for psychotherapy treatment locally, regionally and globally. Mimerse is a Sweden-based company and is a VR network for evidence-based applications that can enhance, manage and treat the minds of millions.

“Virtual reality environments are already being used in therapy and have been proven to be very effective. Recent studies have shown how the technology can be used to treat people with anxiety, depression, eating disorders and a range of different phobias”, said Wijkstrom.

Dr. Sameer Kishore – who has researched extensively on VR applications for healthcare and psychology said, “What’s interesting and potentially impactful in VR is when you look at yourself – this could be a floating head, a pair of hands or a full virtual body. This embodiment gives you a physical representation of the virtual environment and when you change the body, you change aspects of the ‘self’. VR can teach your brain to recognize that you are in a safe environment, and the learnings you make in the virtual world translate in the real world so you can overcome your fear of heights using this technology.”

Although VR is still a novel technology in healthcare, Kishore, Wijkstrom and Khayat have commended recent developments in hardware that have made it more open to mass adoption by reducing bottlenecks. All three speakers agreed that the UAE leads the world in the deployment of VR across various economic sectors and, thanks to its infrastructure and services, remains an international center for talent and technology that enhances the ease of doing business in Dubai.