Sunday, August 21, 2005
Virtual War: We get 'em coming and going!
Although declining recruitment figures indicate that the tactic hasn't been working very well recently, the U.S. military has been using an sophisticated first person shooter video game, "America's Army," as a way to attract young men to sign up. Now it comes to light that video games are being used at the other end of the military experience, when soldiers leave the service and have to deal with the horrors of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Here's the story from the increasing non-plused NPR on this new form of therapy. Note the Owellian title of the research firm involved.
"Using components from the popular game Full Spectrum Warrior, psychologist Skip Rizzo and his colleagues have fashioned a "virtual" world that simulates the sources of combat stress.
The project is a joint venture between the Institute for Creative Technologies -- a cutting-edge research lab at the University of Southern California -- and the Office of Naval Research. The object is to help veterans come to terms with what they've experienced in places like Iraq and Afghanistan by immersing vets in the sights and sounds of those theaters of battle.
The soldier being treated wears VR goggles and headphones. Using a tablet-based interface, a therapist can activate or remove the sounds of gunshots or the sight of smoke, depending on a patient's reaction. The idea is to re-introduce the patients to the experiences that triggered the trauma, gradually, until the memory no longer incapacitates them.
Eventually, Rizzo believes the therapy will include other stimuli, such as vibrations to simulate the impact of bombs or rumbling of tanks, and even the smells of war -- the body odor, garbage and spices of urban combat, for example.
Early results from trials suggest virtual reality therapy is uniquely suited to a generation raised on video games. . . . ."
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[Uniquely suited, indeed. Here's the roadmap: from virtual shooting gallery to real shooting gallery back to the virtual shooting gallery. This is how America prepares its best and brightest for the challenges of contemporary life. - LW]