University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies has an ongoing project called STRIVE – or “stress resilience in virtual environments.”
ICT was founded in 1999, with a $45M contract from the U.S. Department of Defense. USC’s mission was to capitalize on new entertainment tools, from the film, TV, and video game industries, such as virtual reality, to build military training simulations. The DOD renewed the grant for $100M in 2004, and the institute continues to work in partnership with it, and other military research departments.
Among many other projects in ICT’s arsenal, STRIVE specifically helps veterans deal with, and prepare for, if need be, PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, through virtual reality.
Here’s a brief description of the project:
STRIVE is a story-driven approach to using virtual reality (VR) for understanding and training psychological resilience in service members prior to a combat deployment. The goal is to better prepare our troops for the emotional challenges of war, potentially reducing the later incidence of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
– ICT’s STRIVE Overview
Here’s an excerpt about the process:
Under the direction of Dr. Skip Rizzo, highly controlled yet emotionally evocative scenarios were developed in virtual reality (VR) allowing trained therapists to immerse the participant in scenes in which the therapist controls even minute details. This gives the therapist an unparalleled ability to expose the user only to environments the therapist deems the user capable of confronting and processing in a therapeutic fashion.
– ICT’s STRIVE Project Page
The way the VR treatment works is by using a method of therapy called “exposure therapy.”
The American Psychological Association classifies exposure therapy as “a psychological treatment that helps people confront their fears.” According to ICT, this effort is based on two scientific principles:
- Pre-exposure to traumatic events within a safe environment provides some degree of protection for those exposed to subsequent trauma (Latent Inhibition);
- Resilience, or the rate and effectiveness with which someone returns to normal after stress (a process termed allostasis), can be strengthened through systematic training.
In accordance with these principles, ICT has developed multiple VR simulations, with “advanced gaming development software, cinematically designed lighting, sound, and narrative that maximizes character development and emotional engagement, as well as clinical appropriateness.”
Watch a video of STRIVE in action below:
We might also be working with them.
See our post here for more information on what STRIVE uses for software, some more on the process, and our potential partnership with USC ICT.