VR Acute Threat Experience

Using VR to Study Common Phobias

In our third collaboration with Dr. Nicholas Thomson, we set out once again to design and build a VR experience, this time to help study common phobias and people’s reaction when exposed to them. The experience was designed to provoke common fears and measure the participant’s fear reactivity. The study has been conducted before, but the goal for this product was to set a standardized method of testing.

Previously, they used a variety of different platforms to induce different phobias. For example, having the participant watch a YouTube video of a 360-degree surgery. Although there are a couple of games and experiences to measure phobias, there is no universal format, which in turn led to skewed results. Utilizing the power of VR, we were able to place 5 different phobias in one experience!

Key Design Problem

One issue we ran into was balancing design with enough authenticity to invoke a fear response. We asked ourselves, “How can we make this feel real enough to induce fear without using hyper realistic assets?”

We had to get creative and punch in the perfect combination of visual queues, coupled with sound effects to make it all work. By establishing a convincing ambience, we were able to simulate common phobias without relying on hyper-realistic details.

Experience and Scenarios

The experience contains 5 immersive scenarios that each tackle different types of phobias and 1 neutral experience used to gather the participant’s baseline. The fears activated included:

Fear of harmless insects and animals
Claustrophobia
Fear of aggression
Social fear
Fear of injury

We took the experience one step further. To facilitate the study, we created an in-app rating system that allowed users to rate their experience after each scenario played out. This in turn allows the researchers to save time in the data collecting phase of the study.


Blog Post

Related Articles

Interactive VR Scenes

3D environments purpose built for VR and optimized for a cross-platform experience. The rate of consumers dropping...

VR Mindfulness Training

A VR Intervention With the explosion of different social media platforms, teens today are only at higher risks of...

Is VR Safe?

VR Safety Concerns In the world of virtual reality, health and safety is a top priority for creators and the number one...