Once synonymous with gaming, virtual reality (VR) has made inroads in recent years in a wide range of applications — particularly in healthcare, where the ability to create immersive, virtual worlds has led to some remarkable advantages for patient care.
Daniel Freeman, a professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford, has conducted research into the use of VR as a treatment tool for a range of mental health conditions, including paranoia- and anxiety-related disorders. (His work has involved investigating the use of VR therapy for overcoming fear of heights and of needles, for instance.)
Freeman founded OxfordVR, a spinout firm (recently merged with US-based BehaVR), which is responsible for gameChange, a VR-based treatment for severe psychosis-related agoraphobia that’s currently in trials with health services in the UK and US. The gameChange treatment involves the use of VR by house-bound patients to simulate everyday situations such as a café, pub, or bus trip. It was used in a trial involving hundreds of patients — thought to be the largest randomized, controlled trial involving VR mental health treatment so far — with the results published in The Lancet indicating that the automated VR therapy led to significant reductions in distress related to everyday situations.