Virtual Solutions - Making the Impractical Possible

May 2022

The Past

Blursday, Groundhog Day, or perhaps a meme quote from Back to the Future - “don’t ever go to 2020”... If you were around prior to 1985 there was plenty of science fiction predicting all sorts of nonsense that would be lurking around future corners. There were several books and movies predicting the science making strange things possible. If you were in graduate school at the time, there is a good chance that you were connected with or knew of research labs attempting to bend reality either through technology, physics, or other creative approaches. If you were at Georgia Tech or Emory University you may have met one of those creative minds - Dr. Barbara Rothbaum or Dr. Larry Hodges. It was an amazing collaboration bringing together clinical psychology and interventional technology to create a digitally synthesized environment within a crazy expensive head-mounted display that when connected to a computer and worn by a human could transport the user into an entirely different world to the one they were standing in reality. These goggles connected the user with a virtual reality that projected all sorts of suggested images and experiences for their interpretation. Fear of Heights and fear of flying were among the first (B.O. Rothbaum et al., “Effectiveness of Virtual Reality Graded Exposure in the Treatment of Acrophobia,” Am. J. Psychiatry, vol. 152, 1995, pp. 626-628.; B.O. Rothbaum et al., “Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy in the Treatment of Fear of Flying: A Case Report,” Behaviour Research and Therapy, vol. 34, no. 5/6, 1996, pp. 477-481).

The Present

Today’s graduate students have grown up on MindCraft®, FortNite®, and gaming companies such as SONY®, Nintendo®, Microsoft®, and ActionBlizzard®. SONY®, Oculus® (now Meta®), Samsung®, and HTC® have taken gaming into the VR realm, and the global VR market is projected to reach $26 B by 2026. It is no wonder that we see growing interest in the use of VR and augmented reality (AR) within the intervention space. VR and AR have been part of the medical education realm for almost a decade. This has meant an abundance of opportunities to meet research and clinical needs just as the behavioral healthcare industry is pivoting to more creative care solutions. The past two years have been spent creating and innovating the VR space to allow for multiple player experiences, or in treatment terms, group therapy options; in finding more sleek development tools to build dynamic, living experiences that can be more cross-platform friendly; and in streamlining the manner in which virtual interventions can be delivered to remote patients, or more easily accessed for confidential patient-user experiences.

The Future

Tomorrow’s graduate students will be familiar with video conferencing, social media, and that time every day seemed like the same day when we all got to stay home at the same time. Where electricity, wifi internet, and the ability to order up entertainment, healthcare, and groceries over our cell phones were a thing. When standing at our desks became the new ‘sitting’ fatigue, when meeting someone in person was “old school”, and where video conferencing provided half the story for the clinical evaluation. Where VR dating avatars of others and socializing by group text strings were more typical than science fiction, and where research was halted until protocols could overcome ‘having to be in-person’.

How can VBI help you?

Virtually Better is dreaming about our future projects where we bend our current reality with the new innovative technologies that take us to new places and transcend the next dimensions. What can we build for your dream project?