Autistic kids that suffer from phobias have a particularly hard time overcoming their fears. Traditional therapies don’t work well, so researchers at Newcastle University in England have been testing an immersive virtual reality system that is already showing great promise at treating serious phobias.
The Blue Room virtual reality system is a collaboration between Newcastle and Third Eye NeuroTech, a company based close to the university. It is a room, similar to the original CAVE invented decades ago, that lets the user be inside a 360 degree virtual environment and interact with it in various ways.
The system doesn’t require wearing 3D glasses, as it’s not trying to push the bounds of realism. It gently nudges children to the objects that cause their phobias, while allowing them to control the situation via a tablet computer. A dog, for example, can be made to disappear in less than a second, allowing the kids to always feel bold with whatever it is they’re dealing with.
Researchers at Newcastle University just published a study showing that in their research, 40% of kids treated demonstrated improvement of symptoms after two weeks following treatment, and about the same held up at six months, meaning that the therapy’s effects tend to last when it works.
Here’s a video of a child using a Blue Room:
Study in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders: A Randomised Controlled Feasibility Trial of Immersive Virtual Reality Treatment with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Specific Phobias in Young People with Autism Spectrum Disorder…