HAVE Experience: an investigation into VR empathy for panic disorder

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Russell, Vincent
Barry, Rachel
Murphy, David
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Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
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This paper presents a Virtual Reality (VR) system that was developed to increase empathy and understanding for panic disorder. The system is designed to give users a heightened awareness of the experience of those symptoms and a deeper, experiential understanding and empathy towards sufferers of panic attacks. VR provides an immersive and controllable experimental environment and serves as a safe dynamic test bed suitable for the study of this topic. The research uses the immersive auditory and visual modalities of VR as contributing factors for a positive empathetic experience, which may be used by medical professionals or those seeking a greater understanding of panic attack symptoms through first hand experience. The main goal is to assess whether the system is capable of imparting users with an enhanced level of understanding of panic attack symptoms leading to a greater sense of empathy. The paper describes the design and implementation of the `HAVE Experience', and an initial experiment conducted with 26 subjects in a controlled environment. Participants were situated in a virtual elevator, where they were exposed to increasing levels of panic disorder symptoms in a controlled manner. The findings indicate that VR is a good medium for conveying empathetic experiences. Moreover the study revealed that an overwhelming majority of participants felt an increased level of empathy and understanding for panic attack sufferers.
Virtual Reality , Panic attacks , Immersive environment , Controllable experimental environment , Safe dynamic test bed , Immersive auditory , Positive empathetic experience , Greater understanding , Panic attack symptoms , Hand experience , Panic disorder symptoms , Empathetic experiences , Increased level , Panic attack sufferers , HAVE Experience , VR empathy , Heightened awareness , Virtual Reality system , Visualization , Elevators , Medical treatment , Physiology , Games , Visual effects , Experience , Panic disorder , Anxiety , Empathy , Realism , Ambisonic audio , Spatial sound
Russell, V., Barry, R. and Murphy, D. (2018) 'HAVE Experience: An Investigation into VR Empathy for Panic Disorder', 2018 IEEE Games, Entertainment, Media Conference (GEM), Galway, 15-17 August, pp. 167-172. doi: 10.1109/GEM.2018.8516461
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