Do you remember the virtual reality boom back in the early ’90s? People said we would all be working in a virtual reality world in the near future, but something happened and the technology was abandoned. The virtual worlds we were said to inhabit never materialized, and we were left with a different kind of technology instead. But recently virtual reality has started to become cool again, and maybe that is why innovation like this virtual therapist has come alive.
It takes influence to get something off the ground, and that was made apparent when John Carmack, the genius behind games like Doom and Quake, became close to euphoric about the new Oculus virtual reality glasses. Virtual reality is once again the edge of technology, but this time around, it looks to stay longer than it did the first time. With virtual experiences like a new virtual therapist developed by University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, we could possibly find a new use for virtual reality that will enable it to be developed around our lives instead of the other way around.
The virtual therapist software is a Kinect-driven avatar called SimSensei which aims to help people get back on their feet again after a deep depression for example. The fact that the virtual therapist is a virtual being makes it somewhat easier for people to lift the burden that is making their hearts heavy. The virtual therapist will listen, interact and help the patient drum out even the most significant issues that are keeping them from feeling complete happiness. The virtual therapist representation actually says she is not a therapist, but it makes perfect sense to call it that even though she might lack the professional education to serve as one.
The aim of this virtual reality experience is to quickly detect depression and help level the patient back into positive mental health. The virtual therapist concept will be presented the Automatic Face and Gesture Recognition conference in Shanghai, where other innovators are also competing to determine who can develop the most accurate way to diagnose people suffering from depression.