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 Clinical Cyberpsychology with a CAVE.

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Date posted: 22/09/2008

A US $6-million virtual reality 'immersive room' is opening the door to new ways to treat phobias and other disorders.

St?phane Bouchard is a psychologist with drive. He is Canada's Research Chair in Clinical Cyberpsychology and is co-founder of the cyberpsychology lab at the Universit? du Qu?bec en Outaouais in Gatineau. He has now constructed a CAVE system, dedicated to bringing better Vr-based therapy to patients.

In January, thanks to a grant from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Mr. Bouchard was able to buy the $6-million immersive room, which the lab has dubbed PSYCH?. Though assembled, the system will not see use until later this year, when the first virtual environments are completed.

The primary advantage of the immersive room is enhanced realism. Users navigate through highly detailed virtual environments with a hand-held device and wear 3D goggles that track their movements, enabling the projectors to adjust images according to their orientation. Many cyberpsychology researchers believe that the more realistic the immersion, the more effective the therapy.

Mr. Bouchard hopes to use the room to research everything from gambling addiction to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Mr. Bouchard also believes realism is important, but only to treat certain disorders. A perfectly rendered world is not always necessary to trigger an anxiety response, he says, and he plans on using PSYCH? to determine how much realism is required to fool the brain. One low-tech means of inducing anxiety in a patient is to have them imagine an unsettling scenario. A therapist could, for example, tell someone entering an immersive room to be treated for a flying phobia that the pilot of their virtual plane is sick or that the plane's engines had just been repaired.

"Sometimes you don't need to have more technology," says Mr. Bouchard. "Sometimes you just need a better story."

See the full Story via external site: www.canada.com



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