Wevr Transport talks with visionary psychologist Albert “Skip” Rizzo about the wounds of war, treating depression and the ethics of immersive porn.

Albert "Skip" Rizzo:

Behavioral Scientist at USC.

Albert “Skip” Rizzo remembers the first wave of VR excitement back in the nineties. Primed by cyberpunk and films like Lawnmower Man, the public became infatuated by the potential of this seemingly futuristic technology.

"Even brief periods of practice in an interactive 3D environment can actually effect cognitive function in a positive way and prove mental rotation abilities."

A company called Virtuality introduced VR pods into game arcades and Nintendo released their Virtual Boy. There were others as well, but none of it matched the imagined cinematic promise of VR and so the public’s interest moved on.But behind the scenes and out of the spotlight, some very real VR related innovation was happening at universities and institutions like NASA. These developments were what inspired psychologist Rizzo to begin exploring the idea of VR-based medical treatments. And it was this innovative path that, decades later, has Rizzo at the forefront of health related VR applications and occupying a post as director of medical virtual reality at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. While focusing primarily on combat related PTSD, his team has also pioneered VR related treatments for autism, strokes, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.

"We want to be able to fool the brain in key ways to help people get through things, confront their fears."

We first became aware of Dr. Rizzo while releasing our guided meditation simulation Finding Your True Self with Deepak Chopra. Investigating the idea of wellness related VR experiences, Rizzo’s findings proved both unavoidable and inspiring.So we were thrilled to spend a recent morning with the intellectually compelling and infinitely cool Dr. Rizzo, discussing a range of fascinating topics ranging from VR treatment for combat veterans, the very nature of depression, the moral implications of virtual pornography and his longstanding love for seventies prog rock.

"All of a sudden everybody is VR crazy again, like it was in the early 90s, but this time the technology is there to deliver on the vision."

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