'Virtual Iraq' created to help traumatised veterans

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The University of Southern California developed a simulation system that provides real effects of battlefield. The simulation is called Virtual Iraq and it is now being put in practice by the University of Reading. Virtual Iraq represents a fully-immersive system created as part of a therapy that aims to help soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder to handle their psychological issues.

The Director of the Visualization Center at University of Reading, Professor Paul Sharkey, has been developing the system together with two professors from the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, Albert Rizzo and Jarrell Pair. They created a virtual room at the Visualization Center where patients can experience the effects of the battlefield.

Scientists will provide in their Virtual Iraq sounds, sights and smells of the battlefield so soldiers or military staff would experience real combat scenarios but in a low threat context. Thus the therapists are able to add to the virtual world roadside bombs, the smell of burning rubber, as well as the sound of gunfire and buzzing of the helicopter. Till now four patients were treated and they all reported improvement in the symptoms.

Scientists state that the aim of the new system is to re-expose patients to relevant traumatic events and not to re-traumatize them. They look forward to manage people’s emotional responses so to make them more flexible in everyday situations.