University of Alberta design student develops augmented reality arachnophobia program

Are you afraid of spiders? You might soon be able to get over your fear thanks to the work of an Alberta university student.

Design student Anna Chakravorty developed an augmented reality program as part of her master’s thesis that could be used in the future to help those with arachnophobia.

She chose the concept due to her own personal experiences with phobias.

“There are a lot of different types of phobias,” said Chakravorty, who completed the project as part of her graduate program in visual communication design at the University of Alberta.

“Height, water, public speaking… I myself am immensely scared of insects,” she said Saturday. “Honey bees are something I’m really scared of. If I hear a honey bee outside, I won’t go outside.”

She said she chose augmented reality because it could be accessed easily by both patients and therapists in the future with technology most people have, like a smartphone. She also consulted with psychologists throughout the game’s development.

She added that it includes a focus on empathy, so patients aren’t actually encouraged to kill or destroy the spiders, which Charkravorty hopes will allow them to gradually be able to control their emotions when it comes to the specific phobias.

“When you have fear of something, you end up hating that thing,” Chakravorty said.

Even though her prototype is focused solely on arachnophobia, she believes it could be used for many types of phobias in the future.

The program also includes aspects meant specifically for therapists, such as an area to record patient reactions to each level of the program.

Chakravorty said she needs to find a software developer to officially launch the program beyond the prototype stage.

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