Business Technology

Saturday 20 September 2014

Itsy the Spider: Psychiatrists called in to create app to cure arachnophobia

By Matthew Sparkes

Published 07/02/2014 | 08:26

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A headmaster munched his way through a tarantula in a bid to raise funds
A German has been jailed for six months for posting hundreds of tarantulas to the US
A wild Tarantula. Photo: Getty Images

A software developer has teamed up with a pair of psychiatrists to develop an app which they claim can rid people of their fear of spiders.

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It introduces them to a “cute” cartoon arachnid, slowly building up to being crawled on by an augmented reality tarantula.

The creators of the app claim that 60pc of the UK has arachnophobia to some extent, but that only one per cent of those seek any help to overcome their phobia.

Phobia Free uses “exposure therapy” to slowly desensitise people to spiders. Initially it asks users to play games with a pink cartoon spider called Itsy, unlocking achievements and new levels.

As the game progresses Itsy is replaced by increasingly realistic spiders until users are eventually able to cope with the sight of a fully grown tarantula crawling on their hands created with augmented reality technology.

The app has been created by developer Virtually Free with input from Dr Russell Green, a practicing psychiatrist who also provides the voice for the in-app therapist “Dr Freeman” and Dr Andres Fonseca, honorary senior lecturer at Roehampton University.

The developers say that the software is a “springboard project” and that they hope to eventually launch a range of apps to help treat different psychological issues.

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