Thursday, March 02, 2006

Solitary, Poor, Nasty, Brutish, and Short . . . But At Least It's Virtual

Last month, the Washington Post reported on how the Office of Naval Research and USC's Institute for Creative Technologies have developed Virtual Iraq. The program to treat combat veterans who are having difficulty reintegrating into civilian life has also been featured on National Public Radio. Although reliving traumatic experiences seems counterintuitive to psychic healing, such programs are statistically shown to be highly effective as treatments and get some of the most successful behavioral and cognitive results. Albert "Skip" Rizzo, who recently spoke at the Los Angeles ACM SIGGRAPH meeting, Snow Crash: Virtual Reality Goes Real, is also one of the principal investigators on the project.

Actually, such virtual reality therapy has been used for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in many political contexts that replicate a variety of geographic locales. Those in New York who suffer from PTSD from the September 11th terrorist attacks can be treated by reliving the experience with a Virtual World Trade Center that was developed by the Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies at Cornell. A Virtual Bus Bombing, which was developed by lead researcher Naomi Josman from the University of Haifa, allows Israeli citizens to recover from suicide bombing attacks. Virtual reality environments for Angola, Mozambique, and other African areas of conflict have been developed by Pedro Gamito of the University of Lusafona. Those still fighting demons from three decades earlier can also benefit from Virtual Vietnam.

The Virtual Office presents a more quotidian war zone for patients who suffer from anger management issues. Although this 360 degree computer-generated recreation of an office environment was originally developed as a testing environment for brain injured patients, it has been repurposed for the virtual cubicle dweller who must deal with aggravated superiors and coworkers, including a white female who threatens to tow the subject's car from the company parking lot and an Asian male who complains about the subject's work habits.

It's worth noting that another kind of Virtual Iraq has been envisioned at the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative Iraq, where Ruzena Bajcsy of U.C. Berkeley has been developing a "virtual heritage" archive, according to the BBC, which will recreate the contents of museums and archeological sites that were looted after the U.S. Invasion.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home