“Virtual Vietnam” PTSD Therapy System (1997-1998)

From June 1997-May 1998 I was the project manager for the development of “Virtual Vietnam”, a virtual reality simulation of Vietnam War combat. The application was created to treat veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, a debilitating psychological condition.  The system was used extensively by psychotherapists at the Atlanta Veterans Administration hospital.  Two environments were developed. One environment allows a user to wear a virtual reality helmet and ride a combat helicopter.  In this scenario, the user would sit in a subwoofer equipped chair to simulate the vibrations experienced in flight.  In a second scenario, users would stand and utilize a joystick to walk through a hostile helicopter landing zone.

Philip Hebert was the project’s lead programmer.  Upon completion of the project, Philip joined Red Storm Entertainment where he worked on the hit “Rainbow Six” tactical combat game.  Brian Wills served as a 3D artist on the project.  In 1998, Dave Gotz programmed a number of additional features based on user feedback.  The project was led by Dr. Larry Hodges, director of the Virtual Environments Group at the Georgia Tech Graphics, Visualization, and Usability Center.

Virtual Vietnam was referenced by renowned computer scientist Dr. Frederick Brooks in his article “What’s Real About Virtual Reality?” in IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications:

Frederick P. Brooks.  “What’s Real About Virtual Reality.” IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications. Volume 19 Issue 6, November 1999 , pp. 16-27. View in PDF Format

Virtual Vietnam was also referenced in the 1999 documentary “The Story of Computer Graphics”, narrated by Leonard Nimoy and presented by ACM SIGGRAPH.

This project was documented in this conference paper:

Hodges, Larry F. Barbara O. Rothbaum, Renato Alarcon, David Ready, Fran Shahar, Ken Graap, Jarrell Pair, Philip Hebert, David Gotz, Brian Wills and David Baltzell. “Virtual Vietnam: A Virtual Environment for the Treatment of Vietnam War Veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. ” In Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Artificial Reality and Tele-Existence. Tokyo, Japan, December 1998.

Virtual Vietnam PTSD Therapy Helicopter Flyby

Helicopters Approaching Landing Zone

Virtual Vietnam PTSD Therapy Helicopter Take-Off

Helicopter Departs Flying Over Swamp

Virtual Vietnam PTSD Therapy Hills Flyover

Flying Over Mountainous Terrain

Virtual Vietnam PTSD Therapy River Flyover

Flying Over River With Other Helicopters in View

Virtual Vietnam PTSD Therapy Rice Patty Flyover

Flying Over Rice Patties

Virtual Vietnam PTSD Therapy Helicopter Landing

Helicopter Landing

 Virtual Vietnam PTSD Therapy User

Left: User stands and uses joystick to walk through landing zone environment Right: Specialized seat used for helicopter ride simulation

Virtual Vietnam PTSD Therapy Chair

Subwoofer Equipped “Thunderseat” Used to Simulate Vibrations of Helicopter Flight

Virtual Vietnam PTSD Therapy System MD Computing Magazine Cover March-April 1999

Virtual Vietnam Featured on Cover of “MD Computing” Magazine March-April 1999 

Download Article PDF

Virtual Vietnam PTSD Therapy System in 2001 Documentary “Virtually Healed”

Virtual Vietnam Screen Captured Footage