Art Therapy & VR

Virtual Reality has a longer history than most people are aware of. It actually has its roots in an area where a lot of new technology has it's beginnings, in science fiction.


The first mention of VR can be traced back to a story written by Stanley G. Weinbaum in 1935. His short story “Pygmalion’s Spectacles” describes a goggle-based virtual reality system with holographic recording of fictional experiences, including smell and touch. The first VR “headset” however didn’t come about until 1968 when Ivan Sutherland, with the help of his student Bob Sproull, created the first virtual reality and augmented reality head-mounted display system, named The Sword of Damocles.


Art therapy’s history is much longer than the average person is aware of. Its roots date back to the later 18th century, although it did not become a profession until the mid 20th century. Currently there are two major schools of thought, that developed around the same time if only in different areas of the globe. There is the British and the American art therapy history and practice, both with long histories. Jumping from the 18th to the mid-20th century is quite a gap in time, but as it was seen primarily as a “moral treatment” and in her writings Susan Hogan spoke that it “arose out of utilitarian philosophy and also from a non-conformist religious tradition.” The term art therapy was officially coined in 1942, in Britain, by Adrian Hill, who was an artist, however the practice of using the creation of images to relieve various ailments was used long before the official term was coined.


I wanted to solve a meaningful problem. I have always had a deep interest in Art Therapy, as I have not only used it myself but have watched others use it as well. I wanted to see how the technology of virtual reality, and more specifically Google's Tilt Brush software, could potentially further the technology.