A Kiwi virtual reality startup, oVRcome, which treats anxiety and phobias, is looking for Australian investors

- June 2, 2023 2 MIN READ
oVRcome founder Adam Hutchinson and Dr Cameron Lacey, from Otago University, who has led clinical trials of the VR treatment.
A New Zealand entrepreneur who developed virtual reality software to treat anxiety and phobias is heading to Australia as part of a bid to source additional funding to help further enhance his product. 

oVRcome founder Adam Hutchinson, from Christchurch, will pitch to investors at the Digital Health Festival in Melbourne starting June 6. Funding will be used to progress product development including the launch of a B2B dashboard and the onboarding of therapists to use in-clinic.

oVRcome treats patients using a headset and a smartphone app treatment programme – a combination of Virtual Reality (VR), 360-degree video exposure therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

The programme has proven efficacy through a clinical trial with Otago University generating interest globally.

Hutchinson started working on software to treat phobias in July 2020 and launched his first product in February 2021. oVRcome completed its first clinical trial (fear of needles, flying, spiders, heights and dogs) in June that year with research partner Otago University.  Results demonstrated the efficacy of the treatment. 

A second clinical trial, focused on social anxiety, is underway, and there are two more planned for this year. Proof of efficacy through trial is of utmost importance to Hutchinson. Otago University has proven to be a strong research partner.

Says Adam, “In a world where technology continues to push boundaries, our aim is to revolutionise mental health treatment. By providing immersive and interactive experiences, we are addressing anxiety and phobias to make a lasting impact on the well-being of individuals worldwide. oVRcome now has subscribers in over 30 countries. Each testimonial received excites me more about the potential of this product.”

“Anxiety disorders and phobias affect millions of people globally, significantly impacting their daily lives. Traditional treatment methods might have involved exposure therapy, where patients gradually confront their fears. However, this process can be time-consuming, expensive, and challenging to replicate in real-life scenarios. Additionally, access to care is proving increasingly difficult with lengthy waiting lists for treatment. oVRcome enables a patient to access treatment immediately, taking control of their treatment.

“Through carefully crafted simulations, users can gradually expose themselves to challenging situations at their own pace, building resilience and reducing anxiety over time. This personalised and adaptive approach can significantly enhance the effectiveness of therapy, leading to improved outcomes and a better quality of life for patients.”

The scalability of the VR platform means that the benefits can reach individuals beyond traditional therapy settings. Schools, universities, and even corporate wellness programs can leverage this technology to address stress, anxiety, and phobias that may hinder individuals’ personal and professional growth.

oVRcome has met several key milestones since launch.

In July 2022, the company won the Trans-Tasman Innovation & Growth Award at the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum and in April 2023 won startup pitch at the Australian National Telehealth Conference in Sydney. 

In October, 2022 Whakarongorau Aoetearoa (New Zealand Telehealth Services) announced investment and two months later oVRcome ran a Pilot program with the NHS in the UK using Virtual Reality to help children and adults with Autism overcome anxiety around hospital environments. 

Virtual reality technology has come a long way since its inception, finding applications in various industries. In recent years, mental health professionals have recognised the immense potential of VR as a therapeutic tool. With its ability to create realistic and controlled environments, VR offers a safe space for individuals to confront their fears, anxieties, and phobias in a controlled and supportive environment.