The field of virtual reality could not be hotter right now. From the Oculus Rift to Google Cardboard, VR is quickly finding its way into homes across the world. While virtual reality may be a great addition to the world of gaming, researchers have been quick to explore its potential for solving real problems in society. One of these pursuits has been targeting PTSD and the capabilities of virtual reality to help soldiers returning from war to overcome the trauma of combat.
The project to help soldiers cope with PTSD after returning from war was spearheaded by Albert Rizzo, a researcher at USC Davis. By giving PTSD patients a VR headset, Rizzo allows them to experience the combat zone again and again. This is extremely traumatizing at first, but over time, patients have shown massive improvements. This process, called “habituation”, is somewhat controversial because it forces patients to relive their experiences. But through this process, patients also develop a sense of control over the situations that haunt them.
This is a relevant topic in several schools of thought, especially human factors for the elements of user experience that must be considered. When creating any virtual reality world, one must consider how the user will be able to experience it as if it were a real environment. When attempting to make this experience relatable for a specific purpose such as re-enacting a war zone, these considerations are even more important. For example, it is not enough to simply put a headset on a PTSD patient and expect the experience to mirror that of being in war. To make the scenario feel as real as possible, soldiers are given a camelback filled with water and a fake gun. The designers behind these virtual reality scenarios must consider the visual experience, but the physical experience as well.
When designing anything, one must consider how it will be used by an individual and how to tailor the design to meet these needs. The researchers behind the VR and PTSD experiment have taken this into account and have created their project with the goal of mimicking all aspects of a war zone. The sounds, sensations, and visuals are all included in order to assist soldiers in regaining control over their lives.
- Amazon.com. Retrieved From https://www.amazon.com/Oculus-Rift-Virtual-Reality-Headset-pc/dp/B00VF0IXEY.
- USC Institute for Creative Technologies. Retrieved From http://ict.usc.edu/pubs/Virtual%20Reality%20Exposure%20Therapy%20for%20Treating%20Combat-Related%20PTSD.pdf
- Parkin, Simon.(2017) How Virtual Reality is Helping Soldiers with PTSD. NBC News. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/innovation/how-virtual-reality-helping-heal-soldiers-ptsd-n733816.