Robotic hand can reduce fear of spiders, according to new research
Łódź students have developed a way to treat fear of spiders, which involves touching them using a robotic hand.
Arachnophobia, the intense and irrational fear of spiders, is one of the most common phobias.
It can include physical symptoms, such as trembling and nausea. Like other phobias, it can be debilitating and prevent people from living life to the full out of fear of running into spiders.
So far, it has been treated in various ways, including counselling or gradually exposing patients to images of spiders.
An Israeli study from 2019 even found that showing them positive presentations of spiders – specifically, the “Spider Man” films” – made them less afraid of spiders.
Now students from the Scientific Circle at the Institute of Applied Computer Science at the Łódź University of Technology have developed a way for people to interact with an artificial spider in a safe environment, which does not involve any actual touching or real spiders.
The model involves a terrarium with an artificial spider in it, with a robot arm that can be used to “touch” the spider.
The person’s hand is in a glove and does not come in direct contact with the spider.
Julia Dominiak who developed the setup with others from the Scientific Circle said: “The glove collects information about the patient's movements and sends a signal to the robotic arm which performs them in an identical way.
“So this is my virtual hand that I put in the terrarium with the spider and I can move it as I want.”
When the robotic hand touches the spider, the person feels a vibration on their fingertips, as if they were touching hairs or a living organism and this helps them reduce their fears because of the glove.
The students have already tested their model on volunteers with positive results.