UNICEF Innovation Fund Graduate: Ideasis

Ideasis: Utilizing VR technology to address phobias and social anxieties

Oguzhan Köksal, Founding Partner, Ideasis
Dmitri, 8, attends a sand therapy session at the Promir Centre for Psychotherapeutic support in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine.
UNICEF/UN018020/Tomislav_Georgiev

10 June 2019

The UNICEF Innovation Fund is proud to see portfolio member, Ideasis, graduate. They’ve come a long way – from numerous product iterations to deep diving into understanding their ecosystem better, strengthening their business model, and gearing up to take their solution to market. They’re now ready to collaborate at a larger scale – as they find new pathways to work with partners, investors, and the open source community.

 

There are millions of people suffering from phobias or social anxiety disorders that greatly impact their daily lives. In some cases, traditional exposure therapy can become costly, uncontrollable, embarrassing and even physically endangering. Our team have developed VivoosVR in an effort to overcome these disadvantages while offering new capabilities such as real time physiological monitoring and reporting therefore making treatment more effective and accessible.


VivoosVR is  a virtual reality tool for mental health practitioners to use in Phobia and Social Anxiety exposure therapies. Features such as full control over scenario events, realistic visuals and real time physiological monitoring allow us to create immersive experiences meeting the desired level of exposure while minimizing the potential risks of real-life experiences.

Real life applications of VivoosVR

Our team encountered a 16-year-old who was traumatized due to an attack by a pack of stray dogs 4 years ago. His outer ear was severely damaged during the attack and he had to undergo several operations. Following this incident, he suffered from severe stress disorder and was unable to go out alone, even to school. His family tried moving to a different city, accompanied by treatments including therapy and medication. Unfortunately, there was no progress achieved and he no longer believed his condition to be treatable. After his first session with VivoosVR, he became hopeful for getting rid of his fears. After a series of 5 sessions his anxiety levels had greatly decreased and he is now able to go outside and even walk to school by himself.

This was a particularly important case for us since we had the chance to contribute to improving the quality of his life.  In addition, we have observed that younger people are much more enthusiastic towards the alternative uses of technology to treat mental health conditions.specifically, game-like experiences like virtual reality.

Bodoor, 17 years is in 12th grade in Azraq Refugee Camp and preparing for her final exams
UNICEF/UN0263742/Herwig
Bodoor, 17 years is in 12th grade in Azraq Refugee Camp and preparing for her final exams

Mental health care for displaced people

All over the world displaced people  face increased anxiety levels coupled with fears which in turn makes adjusting to their new lives even more difficult. Most have experienced grave conditions such as  torture, abuse, warfare and forced displacement. Social anxiety, phobia and post traumatic disorder cases are very common. Resources for mental healthcare, particularly in the case of displaced people, are very limited or inadequate. We expect that technological innovations like VivoosVR will contribute towards the solution of the problem.  Equipping mental health practitioners with tools for more effective therapy can have significant benefits in dealing with the growing demand for mental healthcare.

New approaches

From a technical standpoint, we have been exploring  new approaches to development and distribution of VR under the mentorship of the UNICEF Innovation Fund. Foremost of these being WebVR as an easy to use, low cost, “open” approach to VR.  

WebVR is highly accessible. There is no need to download or install anything other than a supported browser, any content can be reached simply through a URL address. WebVR can be made compatible with mobile, desktop or standalone headsets. It is open source which makes it independent of any app stores or manufacturer restrictions.

Investing our time and efforts to WebVR in order to minimize our hardware and distribution costs, expand our user base and address new and specific use cases.

Additionally we aim to increase the level of realism in our application, we have developed a new approach using 360 video scenario events instead of graphics simulations where applicable. Initial internal tests were successful and we are looking into piloting as well as adding new scenarios.

Mohammad at Suleiman Sultan School in Gaza City. Mohammad from Gaza City contemplates his future just after finishing the Tawjihi, final school year exams.
UNICEF/UN0222639/ El Baba
Mohammad at Suleiman Sultan School in Gaza City. Mohammad from Gaza City contemplates his future just after finishing the Tawjihi, final school year exams.

What's Next

Our solution has come a long way during the past year. We are now more confident on working towards expanding our user base on private, public and non-governmental channels. We plan to commence several small to medium scale projects early 2019 and scale up to larger projects through the year.

We believe the use of technology in mental health care is still relatively unexplored and open to innovation. Even though we have been working in this area for several years, we know  there is still a lot to learn. We also aim to collect more extensive data and feedback from our users in order to improve upon the effectiveness and capabilities of our solution.

Finally, we plan to extend our scope to new use cases such as education, training and social integration where we believe VR technology can effectively be utilized. Social integration is an area we would like to focus on within the new year. We believe VR can be a very powerful tool in training social skills as well as building empathy between different groups of society.