It’s estimated anywhere from 3.5 to 6.1 percent of all people experience intense and irrational fear of spiders, a condition called arachnophobia.
Such people are known to avoid certain situations and places that trigger their phobia, including outdoor social gatherings, basements, and attics.
Now, an augmented reality app developed by an interdisciplinary research team led by Professor Dominique de Quervain from the University of Basel has shown itself to be effective in a clinical trial, measurably helping its users reduce their fear of spiders.
The app is called Phobys, and it can be found in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. The research team behind it created a realistic 3D model of a spider that can be projected into the real world to gradually expose the app’s users to situations they wouldn’t be comfortable with if the spider were real.
“It’s easier for people with a fear of spiders to face a virtual spider than a real one,” explained Anja Zimmer, lead author of the study.
Zimmer tested the app in a clinical trial that involved 66 subjects and found that it took Phobys just six and half training hours to significantly lower the amount of fear and disgust its users experienced in a real-life spider situation.
Phobys is divided into nine main levels and one bonus levels. Unfortunately, only an initial arachnophobia test is available in the free version. The rest of the content can be unlocked via an in-app purchase. The app’s pricing model has earned it several negative reviews on the Google Play Store, bringing its rating down to just 1.3 stars at the time of writing this article.