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Researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK have created a virtual coach who can help people suffering from psychotic disorders to manage their daily lives a bit better.
The participants in the experiment use VR headsets to enter a virtual environment. There they are met by a virtual coach who guides them through various exercises. These involve basic everyday activities such as shopping in a department store or just walking down a street full of people.
GameChange, as the approach is called, is not intended to replace human psychologists but to function as a complement where there is a shortage of therapists.
"GameChange provides an engaging active therapy. In a safe environment, patients can learn by doing. They can practice activities such as buying a cup of coffee at a coffee shop or riding a bus, which helps them gain the confidence to do the same things in real life", says Felicity Waite, one of the researchers behind the study, in a press release.
Those who have participated in the trial are also positive.
"After seven years of illness, I feel much better now. I make eye contact with people without feeling so anxious and I can walk down a street without feeling anxious when I meet a person. I feel much more confident than before", says one of the participants in the study.
The treatment itself only takes three hours and it works with regular, commercially available VR glasses, so the researchers hope that many will have the opportunity to test the treatment.