Innovation That Matters

Fornix uses virtual reality technology to deliver exposure therapy | Photo source Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

A virtual environment for treating phobias

Health & Wellbeing

A startup has developed virtual reality technology that exposes patients to their object of fear in a controlled way

Spotted: According to the Norwegian Institute of Health, around one quarter of the global population will suffer from some form of anxiety during their lifetime. The best way to treat sufferers of this type of disorder is to expose them to the source of their anxiety in a controlled way with the presence of a therapist. But for some forms of anxiety, it is impossible to perform exposure therapy in a controlled setting – such as the office of a therapist.

To tackle this, Norwegian startup Fornix has developed what it calls Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET). This leverages virtual reality (VR) technology to expose patients to the object of their fear in a controlled way in the safe space of a therapist’s office.

The startup’s solution is to provide easy to use pre-programmed virtual environments that require minimal set-up, and can be used flexibly in a range of different environments. Clinicians can stream along with their patients, seeing what they are seeing through their phone or laptop.

All of the company’s VR applications are developed in partnership with clinical experts and researchers, and are externally assessed through independent research studies. Fornix also maintains strong links with the research community at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. These measures are designed to ensure that the product conforms to the highest standards of quality.

At present, Fornix offers programmes for acrophobia (fear of heights), arachnophobia (fear of spiders), astraphobia (fear of thunder and lightning), odontophobia (fear of dentistry), and trypanophobia (fear of blood or needles).

Springwise has seen several recent innovations aimed at mental health. Another solution focused on phobias is a smartphone app that uses augmented reality to treat fear of spiders. More general mental health innovations include an AI-powered mental health companion, and a mental health chatbot with COVID-19-specific support.

Written By: Matthew Hempstead

Mental health is a complex issue, and those in need of urgent help can find information about the services available on the United for Global Mental Health website.



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