Soon to be game designer Tom Fronczak uses the VR studio at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Virtual Reality Center, along with a few classmates of his in hope of developing a simulator
for those who suffer from acrophobia (fear of heights).
The simulator will be used during habitual therapy sessions. Tom's group will be using Unreal
Engine to design a level, ideally representing an unfinished skyscraper.
Fronczak hopes he will succeed in making all this happen. The program will perform something like this: patients will slowly ascend the floors of the building, eventually emerging into the open air, where they'll have to navigate up scaffolding to reach the top.
Acrophobia is an extreme or irrational fear of heights. It is a particular case of specific phobias which share both causes (differing in the source of the phobia) and options for treatment. The simulator, although designed to rid those stuck with this condition, may prove to be a little dangerous as well as sufferers can experience a panic attack in a high place and become too agitated to get down safely. Some acrophobics also suffer from urges to throw themselves off high places, despite not being suicidal.
A phobia occurs when fear is taken to an extreme - possibly through conditioning or a traumatic experience. Then, the mind seeks to protect the body from further trauma in the future, and elicits an extreme fear of the situation, in this case, heights.
So, keeping in mind that acrophobia is a pretty dangerous condition, Tom Fronczak and team should really take into consideration all aspects and proceed carefully with their experiments.