The ‘Godfather of VR’ Wants to Heal Your Wounds

Published by , May 23, 2016 12:16 am

( Albert ‘Skip’ Rizzo is a trained psychologist and virtual reality pioneer has been at the forefront of medical applications of the technology — using VR to treat everything from brain injuries to autism and post-traumatic stress disorder — for more than two decades. Last year, Rizzo received the Pioneer in Medicine Award from the Society for Brain Mapping and Therapeutics and the Brain Mapping Foundation. Michael Roy, director of military internal medicine at the Uniformed Services University, who met Rizzo 12 years ago, calls him “the godfather of virtual reality.”
Rizzo does much of his research with help from $20 million in grants from the military’s Army Research Lab, and is best known for his Bravemind system, a virtual reality battlefield used to treat combat veterans with PTSD in more than 40 hospitals. The idea: VR amplifies a therapist’s ability to treat patients using exposure therapy, a popular technique where patients gradually relive bad experiences to decrease triggered fears. In Rizzo’s virtual Iraq and Afghanistan — populated by images of military helicopters, mass graves and IED explosions — the therapist can tailor encounters to a wide range of stimuli and control how long or graphic the experience is.

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