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This New AR App Can Help People Overcome Their Fear Of Spiders

As an arachnophobe myself, I don’t know how I feel about this…

With the advancement in technology, exposure therapies are becoming more common to treat a variety of different phobia with the help of augmented reality. If you ever had a chance to experience VR, then you’d be aware of the height simulation that is also used as a way to overcome the fear of heights in many people (I didn’t realize I had a height phobia until I tried it myself) Similarly, there’s a new app in town which apparently helps to overcome arachnophobia or the fear of spiders.

A team of researchers from the University of Basel has developed a new smartphone app that uses augmented reality to help reduce a person’s fear of spiders. The app, named Phobys, is designed to help people through the use of exposure therapy in AR by projecting images of moving spiders onto a person’s hand or surroundings. This then helps them to get used to the presence of a spider and gradually makes them less scared of the tiny eight-legged creatures. According to a study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, the app was found to be helpful and reduced the feelings of fear in people up to some extent.

To test the efficiency of the app, around 66 people were chosen as volunteers and subjected to a six-week study in which they completed a number of behavioral assessments to measure their fear responses. The last task was called Behavioral Approach Test (BAT) and involved exposing participants to a real spider and see how they would react to it. “We report that repeated home-use of the stand-alone, smartphone-based, gamified AR exposure app was effective in the reduction of phobic fear in participants with fear of spiders,” write the researchers in the new study.

Research shows that about five percent of people in the world suffer from extreme to moderate levels of arachnophobia. This phobia of creepy eight-legged creatures is presumed to be an evolutionary trait that is embedded into some people. With the help of AR, researchers are hopeful that it would reduce the intensity of arachnophobia to some extent in people, and who knows, maybe a few would want to keep a tarantula as a pet in the future (that would never be me though).