Author: Dr. Raji Wahidy, Virtual Rehab’s Founder & CEO
There is a tendency to associate virtual reality with the gaming industry as over the past couple of years we have predominantly seen an influx of game creation leveraging this state-of-the-art technology. We have seen people wearing headsets as well as others holding a pair of motion controllers in their hands. These motion controllers were used to move around (teleport), touch, pick-up, and throw things around. All of this happens within a physically confined space within the “virtual world.”
So, let us step-back and explain the meaning of virtual reality to those who have not come across this technology. Virtual reality describes a 3D computer-generated environment which can be explored and interacted with. The person who experiences it becomes part of a virtual world or is immersed within this environment, and whilst there, is able to manipulate objects and perform a series of actions. Sounds great? Going through the experience is even more mind-blowing. So, I do encourage everyone to try it out and feel the transformational nature of such an experience.
But virtual reality is not all about gaming. In fact, back in 1994, the integrated managed care consortium Kaiser Permanente did some rehabilitation tests, through the use of virtual reality technology, on individuals who suffered from acrophobia (i.e. fear of heights); the results were shocking: over 90% of the patients no longer showed acrophobic symptoms following the treatment. Virtual reality was, later on, used to treat military combat personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms; the result was once again a positive one, as over 70% of those who underwent treatment no longer showed PTSD symptoms. Virtual reality has also been successfully used in treating mental illness, and, as of recently, it has allowed a paralyzed individual to be able to walk all over again; this time both in the virtual world and in real life.
When it comes to prison and probation settings, virtual reality technology can leverage significant advancements in reducing recidivism and re-incarceration rates worldwide, as inmates and probationers are able to experience and be immersed in positive, functional, and productive settings that otherwise would be inaccessible.
Every person deserves a second chance and inmates are no exception to this rule. In fact, they are the ones that are in most dire need for help, support, and development to become improved citizens upon their release. This can only be realized through educational and rehabilitation programs that will prepare them to lead their future lives in a positive manner, re-integrate within our societies, and avoid the possibilities of re-offending.
Social and psychological rehabilitation in correctional settings is costly to the governments, the tax payers, and the society as a whole. Therefore, we need to think of new and of innovative educational and rehabilitation ways, which are more powerful, economical, and effective.
The latest virtual reality innovation is Virtual Rehab; designed to change the way correctional facilities teach their inmates of ways to function in the outside world. In many ways, this is the next step in virtual reality tools that alter the way people perceive and interact with the world. The exclusive virtual reality based tools developed by Virtual Rehab include formal education, vocational job training, psychological rehabilitation, and correctional services rehabilitation. These services are extended to both inmates and probationers.
The core gains of virtual rehabilitation solutions consist in real-life scenarios, curriculum, along with immersive interactivity, thus addressing the specificities and heterogeneity of offenders.
Governments, policy makers, influencers, inmates, substance addicts, along with others realize that this innovative approach, along with the existing work being conducted, can very well be the solution to some of the outstanding contemporary challenges across corrections.