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Can Deepfakes Improve Therapy?


Imagine being in so much pain that you can no longer do the things you love, such as taking a relaxing walk on the beach. Now, imagine that someone offers you the opportunity to experience that walk again—virtually, from the comfort of your home. All you have to do is don a headset, and you are instantly transported, the same areas of your brain lighting up as if you were taking that walk in real life. As you build your skills on your virtual beach, you are in turn building strength that could enable you to return to walking on your real-world beach in increments that are therapeutically appropriate, comfortable, and safe.

Study after study has shown that when a person learns a skill in virtual reality (VR), that skill often transfers to the physical world. Could that effect be enhanced through increased personalization? What if we could easily transport a patient not just to a beach but to their beach, with its particular attributes and landmarks. What if when they looked down, they saw a highly realistic reproduction of their own toes wiggling in the sand? As technology improves, and creators and clinicians become more able to personalize virtual experiences, how much more effective could this type of experience become? Will personalization be a new metric for immersion/presence?

B.K. Wiederhold
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 147-148.
Publication Date
March 25, 2021