Enter This New Virtual Reality Program to Alleviate Your Social Anxiety

Khryss | Published 2017-03-23 22:36
Technological advancements are moving forward to help even those people with problem communicating. A 24-year-old MSc Medical Product Design student, Gareth Walkom of the Nottingham Trent University innovated a virtual reality software to support people with speech impairments. He said that he himself has experienced first-hand the huge impact of speech impediment in life, having had a stutter from six years old. So, he decided to create a program that can provide exposure therapy for those alike by creating a virtual reality that creates a variety of social situations that can test how they confront their anxieties. Frequent exposure to such circumstances in a virtual environment can help users prepare for future real-life situations that can provoke anxiety and thus enabling them to overcome their fears. (This is known as systematic desensitization in psychology.) “The main situation will be a one-on-one social interaction scene, where the individual will see an animated avatar who they will talk to,” Mr Walkom explained to The Independent. “While the individual is talking to the avatar, their eye gaze behaviours are being measured to get a better understanding of where they are looking while interacting with the avatar. There will also be a scene to decrease the individual's anxiety levels, and to calm them.” This, then, gives users feedback, showing their progress and specifying different ways to improve. “Participants' speech will be measured using the Real-Time Analysis of Speech Fluency (RTASF) scale, which provides a measure of various types of disfluency occurring in a speech sample,” said Mr Walkom.  “This will be accomplished by observing the participant and coding their speech by counting fluency and identifying typical behaviours of stuttering. The participant will reflect on this feedback, and take it into consideration for future sessions and even in real-life situations.” Nottingham Trent University claimed that in experiments involving participants from a stutter self-help group, they had a significant decrease in anxiety levels over repeated sessions with the software.
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