Being different: The transformative potential of virtual reality

Giuseppe Riva, Andrea Gaggioli, Brenda Kay Wiederhold, Brenda K. Wiederhold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The first attempts at using virtual reality (VR) to support clinical change are now more than twenty years old: in the early 90s different group of researchers used VR to counter different anxiety disorders, from acrophobia to fear of flying, from spider phobia to acrophobia. Since then, different researchers have embraced VR to integrate and extend actual assessment tool and treatments in behavioral health: VR has been successfully used in anxiety disorders, stress related disorders. obesity and eating disorders. and pain management. Nevetheless, VR technology is advancing quickly. Both Oculus Rift ( and HTC ( are showcasing high-quality VR experiences at reasonable price points - less than $2000 for a fully configured system - that are now widely available to consumers. This new situation is opening a new research area - Transformative Technology - that is trying to use the potential of virtuality for enhancing the process of personal change: by completely replacing the real environment - and even the real body - with a virtual one, it induces a high level of emotional engagement and sense of presence that can improve our chances of being different.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-7
Number of pages5
JournalAnnual Review of CyberTherapy and Telemedicine
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Anxiety disorders
  • Cardboard
  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Experiential interface
  • Health care
  • Medical simulation
  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Smartphones
  • Virtual reality


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