Virtual reality (VR) is being used in a number of ways to help people with phobias, mental health disorders and more. iThrive Games and Deep Games Labs have created a VR experience about facing anxiety, Soteria VR, which has recently been awarded the Audience Choice Award by the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The award was given at the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Lab hosted by Brainstorm — Stanford’s Laboratory for Brain Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship, after six pre-selected entrepreneurs from around the country pitched startup ideas for using VR or augmented reality (AR) technology to improve brain and behavioral health.
It was iThrive Games’ executive director, Dr. Susan Rivers, and frequent collaborator, Dr. Doris C. Rusch from Deep Games Lab that came up with the concept for Soteria VR, expanding on an earlier PC version of the game called Soteria: Dreams As Currency. Both versions of the videogame draw on techniques for overcoming anxiety: identifying and correcting avoidance behaviors, developing a tolerance for uncertainty and practicing acceptance.
“Designing VR experiences — especially games — for therapy is not widely embraced now. We see incredible promise in using immersive technologies to relieve suffering among individuals struggling with mental illness,” said Dr. Rivers in a statement. “Brainstorm provided an incredible opportunity to share our approach and engage with experts in mental health and technology to push our work forward. The fact that the audience selected our game as the Audience Choice Award winner is also very rewarding and further validates that that the work we’re doing does have a powerful impact.”
Soteria VR wasn’t the only winner at Brainstorm’s Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Lab. Simon Fraser University won the grand prize for their idea to use VR to assist in addiction recovery by preventing relapse.
“Virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR) offer a lot of potential to transform the way that we, as physicians, diagnose and treat diseases like PTSD, autism, anxiety and opioid use,” said Dr. Nina Vasan, the Founder and Director of Stanford Brainstorm and Chief Resident in Psychiatry at Stanford. “Brainstorm wanted to capture this potential by identifying promising VR/AR applications and working with entrepreneurs to develop ventures that are effective from the medical, business, and technological perspectives.”
Additionally, iThrive is working closely with the Centerstone Research Institute in Nashville to devise a strategy for bringing more digital videogames into behavioural health services.
VRFocus will continue its coverage of VR and health, reporting back with the latest advancements.