Virtual reality has undergone a transition in the past 20 years that has taken it from the realm of expensive toy and into that of functional technology. Revolutionary advances in the underlying VR enabling technologies (i.e., computation speed and power, graphics and image rendering technology, display systems, interface devices, immersive audio, haptics tools, tracking, intelligent agents, and authoring software) have supported development resulting in more powerful, low-cost PC-driven VR systems.
Such advances in technological “prowess” and accessibility have provided the hardware platforms needed for the conduct of human clinical treatment and research within more usable, useful, and lower cost VR systems. This workshop will provide an overview of the many forms of Virtual Reality that have been applied across a diverse range of clinical conditions and research questions. Psychologist Skip Rizzo conducts research on the design, development and evaluation of virtual reality (VR) systems targeting the areas of clinical assessment, treatment rehabilitation and resilience. The workshop will include a brief overview of the use of VR for Exposure Therapy for anxiety disorders and with PTSD in military personnel, followed by a summary of research and clinical applications of VR for pain distraction, cognitive and motor assessment/rehabilitation. The focus will then shift to clinically-oriented work with intelligent Virtual Humans agents that can engage real human users in a credible fashion. This has driven their use as “Virtual Patients” for clinical training of novice healthcare providers, experiential social training with persons on the Autism Spectrum, and as online healthcare support guides. The session will close with a hands-on demo of the PTSD treatment system.