Everyone associates virtual reality closely with video games, and rightfully so since headsets from Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Sony’s PlayStation VR are intended for PS and computer games. But virtual reality has found more medical uses in helping to treat PTSD, recreating a crime scene for jurists in court cases, and even potentially treating pedophilia. For court cases, immersive VR technology can be used by members of a jury to recreate a crime scene or being able to look inside a simulation of an accident at a level of detail that photographs or witness testimonies will find hard to capture. Instead of just using their imaginations, jurors using VR can watch 3D reconstructions of an event or scene. Some versions will even allow them to interact with the elements inside like picking up objects or analyzing a situation from different angles.
If anyone can imagine recreating a murder scene, VR can show jurors that murder scene from the perspective of the victim, or show that murder scene from the perspective of the killer. And whichever way the jurors see it is going to give them different perspectives of that crime that can be used to analyze the overall crime. In the treatment of pedophiles, virtual reality can be used to try to identify which type of pedophiles might truly endanger children and how to either keep them off the street or to find a cure for their pedophilia. The experiment is done by getting patients or prison inmates to put on a VR headset and presented with an animated VR experience that they can interact in. Basically, a legal form of child pornography is shown and the patient’s arousal is measured and the results are closely tracked. The procedure is intended as an evaluation and analysis of a pedophile’s ability to be able to suppress pedophilic urges.
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The tricky part of using interactive virtual reality to treat sex offenders is to make sure the offender patient/inmate will not leave the laboratory with more fantasies than he had previously about sex and children. This is why it is important for the study to start with individuals who are incarcerated or hospitalized. Hopefully, VR technology may be used to eventually and fully treat pedophilia someday, or it can be used as a means of educating patients on the cues associated with dangerous behavior. As for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), VR is largely used as exposure therapy, gradually exposing people to the situation that triggers their anxiety or PTSD. Exposure is one of the best treatments for both PTSD and certain anxiety disorders. Along with this, clinicians frequently use cognitive behavioral therapy to teach patients techniques for dealing with those situations. So the next time your mom or dad scoffs at your constant playing with video games, remind them that it is this technology that led to many breakthroughs in psychological medicine.