University College London

3D Avatar
Therapy Software

A significant and pioneering project to help tackle the issue of mental health.

The Challenge

With the growing recognition and awareness of mental health issues, the importance of it's treatment is increasingly high on the public agenda. Specifically, schizophrenic disorders affect around 26 million people worldwide with less than 50% receiving appropriate care. In the UK alone 220,000 people were diagnosed, with a mortality rate approx. 50% above that of the general population due to increased suicides and violent death. (2007, Mental Health Foundation). Clearly, new ways of treating patients were needed to sit alongside more traditional approaches, many of which have been built around the breaking down or the distancing of the 'imagined' entity or voice in the patient's mind.



“The beauty of this digitally orientated therapy is its simplicity & brevity, and it's non-reliance on medication.”

The Solution

Working with Professor Julian Leff and UCL, and supported by the Wellcome Trust, we have developed an innovate treatment that aims to give control back to the patient so that they can re-negotiate the relationship with their voices or hallucinations. The interactive enables the clinicians and patients to create a 3D on-screen avatar by configuring the face and voice of the entity they believe is 'talking' to them. The system then synchronises the avatar's lips with its speech, allowing the clinician to speak with the patient through the avatar in real time. Through Avatar Therapy, the clinician encourages the patient to oppose the voice and gradually teaches them to take control of their hallucinations. This delicate and yet powerful software demanded a thorough, user-centric and sensitive approach to UX/UI design. The beauty of this digitally orientated therapy is its simplicity & brevity, and it's non-reliance on medication.

The Outcome

By nature, this ground-breaking concept will need several years of phased study, evaluation and development. To date, it has been piloted where almost all of the patients reported an improvement in the frequency and severity of the voices they hear, and nearly 20% of tested patients stopped hearing voices completely despite years of auditory hallucinations. Further trials are running in parallel to the system's development whilst its novel approach is gaining media coverage by the likes of the BBC and New Scientist. If Avatar Therapy proves successful in clinical trials, the expectation is that it could be widely available in the UK within 5 years and gradually deployed in overseas markets.