New research suggests that you are not the only one who finds it difficult to open up to a therapist. According to an Edith Cowan University study, 30% of people would rather talk about negative experiences via a virtual reality avatar than with a person.
Researchers compared virtual reality conversations with people face-to-face to see how they interact socially.
The researchers used body and face motion capture technology to create a realistic motion avatar that closely resembled their real-life counterpart. They then analyzed the interaction between avatars and people.
Dr Shane Rogers, a psychologist and communication researcher, said that participants evaluated their experience based on comfort, ease, understanding, enjoyment, discomfort, awkwardness, and the extent to which they felt they had disclosed any information about themselves.
Dr Rogers stated that virtual reality social interaction was rated as being similar to face to face interaction. However, there were some exceptions. People felt closer to each other face to face when they had a conversation with an avatar.
Although virtual reality technology is not new, Dr Rogers stated that this study suggests that motion capture could be used to improve virtual reality.
Dr Rogers stated that “this technology has the potential to be broadly applied across a variety of areas such casual conversation, business and tourism, education, therapy, and so on.”
The study revealed that 30% of respondents preferred to share negative experiences through virtual reality. This suggests that virtual reality therapy could be used to open up therapy to people who aren’t comfortable in traditional face to face interactions.
It might even allow therapists to do therapy remotely, since a person can sit in their home and be in the therapist’s room online.
Dr Rogers stated that he expects virtual reality social interaction to become mainstream in five years.
He stated that “more powerful computers are becoming cheaper, virtual reality headsets, peripherals, and more user-friendly virtual reality interaction platforms are becoming available, and being updated.”
The next steps in this research include further investigating how avatar aspects (fidelity of movement and graphics) impact user experience as well as further exploration of it’s potential for therapeutic settings.