Augmented Reality: Pixelated Pests Used to Treat Phobias

Imagine dozens of cockroaches running uncontrollably across your hand, or a mass of bed bugs feeding on your blood. Thanks to Augmented Reality, mediated reality has now extended into the pest control world. This means that those that suffer from extreme phobias can now be gradually exposed to them by manipulating computerised imagery to project a realistic vision, giving a whole new meaning to exposure therapy.


Augmented Reality on a smartphone

About Augmented Reality

AR (Augmented Reality) is used across a wide variety of digital platforms, and can be defined as virtual computerised information, which enhances a real-world environment. AR consists of a visual overlay on a screen or through use of enclosed head wear to distort the visual reality of the user. Acting as a form of projection, it can be said that AR enables the user to personalise and enhance their surroundings significantly, adding creative elements into a real life environment. This form of technology can be used in both a realistic and graphical sense, with a number of potential possibilities. In the past, Augmented Reality was originally seen in the form of a televised weather forecast map, and is now very common in providing full motion, real-time video for weather-casting. Today, AR serves a range of purposes covering an array of subjects, including: gaming, sports, medical, military and education.


Augmented Reality treatment used to treat a cockroach phobia

How can it be used to treat extreme phobias?

To apply Augmented Reality technology to a patient with a cockroach phobia for example, the user will wear a headset which will display a vision of cockroaches running over the wearers’ actual hand. This may sound like a strange concept to some, yet this form of therapy has already proven to be highly effective. Before undergoing the computerised reality treatment, many patients refused to even enter a room that contained a live cockroach. However, after just a few hours of watching the computer generated roaches crawling over their hands, the patients’ anxiety levels began to decline to the extent of eventually being able to put their finger into a jar containing a roach.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy has been commonly used for many years to treat people with serious phobias, particularly in those that suffer with katsaridaphobia (a fear of cockroaches). This form of therapy has been known to be quite effective, although almost a quarter of patients find that they cannot continue due to its intensity. This is where AR provides a solution; the new technology can prove not only to be more cost effective in providing a new level of exposure treatment, but it enables the patient to be exposed to their phobia in the form of a projection – as opposed to the reality of live cockroaches. Exposure therapy in this sense is much more gradual, and in addition can be transferred across mobile devices such as an iPhone, to create an illusion of the crawling cockroaches in their daily environments such as their own homes.

As promising as this interactive technology is in offering versatile visualisations across a range of platforms, AR is still said to be in early stages, and has great potential to develop further. For more information about Augmented Reality treatment and how this technology can be utilised, click here.