Virtual Reality Helps Bring Veterans Home

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Many people think that virtual reality is all about games. Walking the aisles at SIGGRAPH 2016 in Anaheim, you quickly discover that VR is about much more than that. Games of course, have their value. They imitate life and the things we experience in games, such as sportsmanship and achievement, carry over into life. Life, after all, is serious business. Virtual reality is, too. Here’s a great example:

Medicine is finding that veterans returning from a war zone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have to come to grips with their experience to begin recovering. Virtual reality can help. Bravemind is a virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) program that allows veterans to reach back to the source of their trauma in the war zone, confront it, and then ease back into the present.

“It allowed me to go back in time pretty much, and put me right back in that exact place… and I’m able to process that instead of avoiding it,” says Marine Corps veteran Chris Merkle.

Powered by AMD FirePro™ graphics, Bravemind utilizes input from soldiers like Merkle to generate a realistic, immersive and interactive virtual environment that replicates the soldier’s own experience. In Bravemind, Merkle repeated a specific scenario, enabling him to experience it over and over in a process called habituation/extinction. The result: his therapy was shortened by an estimated two to three years.

“Some people have tried many forms of therapy and this is the only thing that works for them,” says Skip Rizzo, director of medical virtual reality at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies. Rizzo is no stranger to clinical VR. He has been exploring the field since the early 1990s. His inspiration for Bravemind came when he saw a video clip of Full Spectrum Warrior™, a real-time tactical video game.

To bridge the gap between combat in foreign lands and domestic life in the U. S., Rizzo created several driving scenarios, including in the desert and on U. S. roads.  He then crafted 14 different worlds, ranging from an Afghan village to an industrial area.

“When we come back, we really need assistance transitioning,” says Merkle, adding, “I think this is an amazing tool that really helps us catch up to our peers.” Bravemind also empowers clinicians, enabling them to control, document and measure stimuli and patient responses.

At AMD, we have built on the powerful AMD FirePro technology for which Bravemind was designed to create Radeon Pro, which will enable professionals to build even more advanced immersive experiences. Bravemind delivers real benefits to people with real needs today. Tomorrow, Radeon Pro might well deliver benefits we can barely imagine – what we like to call, “the art of the impossible.”

Melanie Ball is Director of Media & Entertainment, Radeon Pro for AMD. His/her postings are his/her own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

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