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3D Glasses to Help Treat Phobias
March 31, 2015   
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An innovative virtual reality system developed by Polish students will help users overcome their fear of spiders, heights or open spaces.

The Phobos system is based on a pair of special glasses designed by students from the Faculty of Computer Science at the Białystok University of Technology in eastern Poland.

The Białystok students submitted their design to the Imagine Cup 2014 international technology competition, an annual contest sponsored and hosted by Microsoft Corp. that brings together young technologists worldwide.

Phobos won in the Innovation category. It also won a gold medal in the technological innovation category at the Brussels Innova 2014 trade fair.

What is innovative about the Phobos system? At present, in the treatment of phobias, a therapist usually asks the patient to imagine the anxiety-inducing situation in an attempt to reduce his or her fear through repeated exposure. A big drawback of this method is that it is difficult to produce a realistic fear-causing environment in the therapist’s office. Most therapists are unlikely to take the patient to a narrow elevator, onto the roof of a tall building, or inside an airplane, for example.

“We decided to deal with this problem by proposing a solution based on virtual reality,” says MaciejKopczyński, one of the designers of the Phobos system.

Working on their invention, the students prepared a graphic system that will make it possible to generate any anxiety-causing environment in virtual reality. A three-dimensional image is displayed using a helmet or a pair of special glasses.

“We are able to create any imaginary world,” says Kopczyński.

The displayed environment depends on the therapist’s requirements and is adapted to the patient’s needs. The patient’s exposure to a fear-causing situation using the Phobos system is short, usually lasting about 5 minutes. The course of treatment usually consists of 15-20 sessions. Research carried out in the United States has shown that the effectiveness of this method is much greater than that of the classical method, and the course of therapy is shorter.

The Białystok students hope their system will be made available to users in the final quarter of this year at the latest.

Olga Majewska
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