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A Kiwi virtual reality startup, oVRcome, that treats anxiety and phobias is looking for Australian investors

A New Zealand entrepreneur who developed virtual reality software to treat anxiety and phobias is heading to Australia as part of an effort to find additional funding to further improve his product.

oVRcome founder Adam Hutchinson, of Christchurch, will be pitching to investors at the Digital Health Festival in Melbourne from June 6. Funding will be used to advance product development, including the launch of a B2B dashboard and the onboarding of therapists for use in the clinic.

oVRcome treats patients using a headset and a smartphone app treatment program – a combination of Virtual Reality (VR), 360-degree video exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

The program has proven its effectiveness through a clinical trial at Otago University that generated worldwide interest.

Hutchinson started working on software to treat phobias in July 2020 and launched its first product in February 2021. oVRcome completed its first clinical trial (fear of needles, flies, spiders, heights and dogs) in June of that year with research partner Otago University. The results demonstrated the efficacy of the treatment.

A second clinical trial, targeting social anxiety, is underway and two more are planned for this year. Proof of efficacy through trials is of paramount importance to Hutchinson. Otago University has proven to be a strong research partner.

Adam says, “In a world where technology continues to push boundaries, our goal is to revolutionize mental health treatment. By providing immersive and interactive experiences, we address fear and phobias to make a lasting impact on the well-being of individuals around the world. oVRcome now has subscribers in over 30 countries. Every testimonial received makes me more excited about the potential of this product.”

“Anxiety disorders and phobias affect millions of people worldwide and have a major impact on their daily lives. Traditional treatment methods may have involved exposure therapy, where patients gradually confronted their fears. However, this process can be time consuming, expensive and challenging to replicate in real-life scenarios. Moreover, access to care is proving increasingly difficult with long waiting lists for treatment. oVRcome allows a patient to access treatment immediately and take control of their treatment.

“Through carefully designed simulations, users can gradually expose themselves to challenging situations at their own pace, build resilience and reduce anxiety over time. This personalized and adaptive approach can significantly improve the effectiveness of therapy, leading to better outcomes and a better quality of life for patients.”

The scalability of the VR platform means the benefits can reach individuals outside of traditional therapy settings. Schools, universities and even corporate wellness programs can use this technology to address stress, anxiety and phobias that can hinder individuals’ personal and professional growth.

oVRcome has achieved several important milestones since its launch.

In July 2022, the company won the Trans-Tasman Innovation & Growth Award at the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum and in April 2023 won a startup pitch at the Australian National Telehealth Conference in Sydney.

In October 2022, Whakarongorau Aoetearoa (New Zealand Telehealth Services) announced an investment and two months later oVRcome ran a pilot program with the NHS in the UK using Virtual Reality to help children and adults with autism overcome fear in hospital settings.

Virtual reality technology has come a long way since its inception and has found applications in various industries. In recent years, mental health professionals have recognized the enormous potential of VR as a therapeutic tool. With its ability to create realistic and controlled environments, VR provides a safe space for individuals to face their fears, anxieties and phobias in a controlled and supportive environment.

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