Researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland have created an app that tries to reduce the fear of spiders in individuals.
Dubbed Phobys, the app is perfect for those who suffer from a mild, clinically insignificant fear of spiders, also commonly known as arachnophobia. The app is based on exposure therapy where patients are guided through therapeutic exposure to the situations they fear in order to help them eliminate the fear.
However, the app tries to do that using a 3D spider model that’s projected into the real world using AR or Augmented Reality. The repeated use of the app reduces subjective fear in real-life spider situations, offering a cost-effective treatment for the fear of spiders.
The app has ten levels, and each level the tasks try to make the people suffering from arachnophobia feel more at ease. At the end of each level the participant is asked to assess their fear and disgust. Based on that, the app decides if the user should proceed to the next level or try out the previous level once more.
The app has a free level that allows users to test if they have fear of spiders for free, whereas therapy for reducing the fear is offered as a service for a fee.
To test its effectiveness, researchers conducted a study (published in Journal of Anxiety Disorders) analysing 66 test subjects who were using the app. Over a period of two weeks, the participants who were suffering from arachnophobia either completed six half-hour training units with Phobys or didn’t get any kind of treatment or therapy whatsoever.
The subjects were also exposed to a real spider in a transparent box before and after the study. The group that had trained using Phobys showed far less fear and disgust in real life, and were more likely to come closer to a real spider compared to those who didn’t use the app or any other kind of treatment.
According to the researchers, the beneficial effects were statistically and significantly very similar to conventional therapy. Researchers concluded that the AR app would likely encourage people to face their fears in a subtle, fun and effective way.