Physiological Acrophobia Evaluation Through In Vivo Exposure in a VR CAVE

João Costa, James Robb, and Lennart E. Nacke. 2014. Physiological Acrophobia Evaluation Through In Vivo Exposure in a VR CAVE. In Proceedings of IEEE GEM 2014. Toronto, ON, Canada. IEEE, 1-4. doi:10.1109/GEM.2014.7047969


Acrophobia (i.e., the fear of heights) is commonly treated using Virtual Reality (VR) applications. Patients that suffer from this clinical condition can experience extreme levels of anxiety, stress, and discomfort, even at relatively low heights. VR computer-assisted virtual environments (CAVEs) have been found to be highly immersive and successful in the treatment of acrophobia. The general method of evaluating therapy progress is through self-reported questionnaire measures. However, these are subject to participant bias. Physiological measures, on the other hand, could provide a more objective way of assessing acrophobia. To our knowledge, psychophysiological measures are not commonly used in the evaluation of acrophobes and their therapy progress within CAVEs. Thus, we present a CAVE application for acrophobia treatment, which includes a physiological feedback mechanism to assess patient progress. It also permits patient movement to facilitate increased presence and immersion. In this application, players sequentially gain access to increasing heights as they successfully progress through lesser heights, as assessed through the evaluation of their physiological responses to VR stimuli.