App against fear

There is a new app that uses 360-degree images shot by drones to help people overcome their fear of heights.

People standing on the observation tower on the Uetliberg Zurich

Standing on a high cliff, walking across dizzying bridges, or looking out of a window of a skyscraper: Such scenarios are likely to trigger a sense of panic in people who suffer from acrophobia.

A team at the University of Basel has now developed an app that aims to alleviate this. In a virtual environment, the app allows smartphone users to venture higher and higher from one platform to the next with a period of acclimatization on each platform.

Experiment on mountain near Zurich

In order to test the effectiveness of their smartphone therapy, the researchers invited more than twenty study participants to perform the app-based training on their own for a total of four hours. Twenty-five subjects who did not use the app served as a control group.

The participants climbed the observation tower on the Uetliberg mountain near Zurich – both prior to and after the experiment. The result: The group that used the app felt less anxiety on the tower after the training and was able to climb higher. The effectiveness of the app proved to be comparable to that of conventional exposure therapy. The control group exhibited no improvement.

The virtual reality app called “Easyheights” uses 360-degree drone footage and will soon be available free of charge in the major app stores, the University of Basel announced. However, the researchers advise people with a severe fear of heights to use the app only under the supervision of a specialist.

Written by: sda

Photos: keystone

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