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The Healing Potential of Online Virtual Worlds

Descriptive Note:

[Technical Report, Book Chapter]

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This chapter describes the research being done to create a healing center for veterans of recent conflicts in the online virtual world Second Life. This work, started in 2008 and funded by the US Armys Research Office, is building a dedicated online virtual world space to provide not only social connectivity for widely dispersed veterans, but also to offer stress reducing health care and activities, especially in the area of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The social space is populated by several intelligent agent-avatars that serve various functions. For example, there is a knowledgeable guide that can show people the various activities and spaces the site has to offer, find out and store a list of the visitors interests, and keep a record of what they have seen and done. Additionally, this guide can offer to connect veterans with others from their units without revealing the real life identity of the Second Life resident who is known in-world only by a pseudonym, based on information the veteran shares with the guide. It can also recognize trigger words that might indicate that a veteran is in a potentially dangerous psychological state, and alert a real world therapist. There are also intelligent agents who can provide guidance for certain activities such as walking a labyrinth, and a story activity called The Warriors Journey.

Subject Categories:

  • Psychology
  • Medicine and Medical Research
  • Computer Programming and Software

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]