Augmented reality to reduce your fear of spiders

Researchers discovered that after a few home training sessions, users of Phobys app had less fear of real spiders

Augmented reality to reduce your fear of spiders

Arachnophobia sufferers can now benefit from a new augmented reality app developed by University of Basel researchers that works on cellphones. A clinical investigation found that the app helped patients who were afraid of spiders. Researchers discovered that after a few home training sessions, test subjects who used the app had less fear of real spiders.

Arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias, and it can have a significant influence on the lives of those who suffer from it. People try to avoid circumstances where they can come into contact with spiders, which limits their regular activities. Exposure therapy is a frequent treatment for arachnophobia, in which clients are exposed to spiders under the supervision of a therapist. Researchers created an augmented reality app that projections a spider on any surface to help people who are afraid of spiders.

According to the project’s researchers, the app has given promise in the treatment of arachnophobia. Phobys is an app that is based on the concept of exposure therapy and displays a realistic spider model. Phobys was tested on 66 people in a clinical experiment. All of the participants were afraid of spiders, with some receiving six half-hour training sessions via the app over the course of two weeks and others receiving no help. Participants saw a real spider within a transparent box before and after the AR app treatment, coming as near as their phobia would allow. Phobys considerably reduced extreme fear of spiders, allowing users to come closer to the genuine spider than the control group.

The software has nine levels in which users can engage with the virtual spider and become closer to it. Users’ levels of dread and disgust are measured at the end of the app therapy. The software is programmed to determine whether a level should be replayed before going on to the next. The programme is available for Android and iPhone users, and it can be used to treat minor arachnophobia on its own. A training programme to help people overcome their phobia of spiders is available as an in-app purchase.