This start-up is going to aid in the treatment of mental health disorders using Virtual Reality (VR)
Curabit came into being with a mission to empower mental health professionals with tools that help them identify and treat mental health problems more effectively, accurately, conveniently and safely using technology.
The main idea is to use Virtual Reality as a tool to introduce audio and visual anchors to create a sense of presence for the patient. It can help generate difficult scenarios, allow for customisation and personalisation for each therapist and each patient, provides complete control to the therapist and allows for interactivity with the simulation. All of these allow our VR-based therapy to be more stimulatory than traditional therapeutic techniques. It is also cost-effective and allows for bio-monitoring through the data generated.
They conceptualized the idea in December 2019 to present their solution at the Social Venture Challenge (SVC) 2020 by The Resolution Project at the Harvard World Model UN conference to be held in Tokyo in March that year. However, due to the pandemic SVC adopted a virtual format. As preparation for the SVC, they approached therapists physically, online and rolled out research forms to gain expert opinions on our solution. The overwhelmingly positive response they received prompted them to create Curabit. The Resolution Fellowship marked the start of our journey as entrepreneurs, with access to seed funding, brilliant mentors and a global organization backing them up!
Mental health is still side-tracked in India. There is a grave shortage of mental health professionals. Moreover, traditional methods of therapy sometimes prove to be ineffective due to the attitude of patients towards therapy. There is a need to support the fragile mental health infrastructure by increasing quality, reducing attrition rates and time of treatment. After conducting their preliminary research, they realized there may be several areas where therapy can be enhanced for the client as well as the therapist with the use of modern technologies like VR. They plan on deploying this system in various mental health clinics, hospitals and centres that offer treatment for anxiety-related disorders.
Our aim is to create multiple scenarios for different disorders. For each scenario we will follow a modular approach - research, prototype, trials and finally deployment.
- Research - Every scenario is made for therapists by therapists. This involves creating the scenarios from scratch and getting them validated.
- Prototype - We plan on building our prototype and validate it from our end.
- Trials - We currently are in talks with clinics and independent practicing therapists to conduct trials with them and get a go-ahead on the prototype.
- Deployment - We will then add it to our content library to provide this scenario to all current and future therapists that will use our products.
Rishabh and Aman are friends, batchmates and Co-Founders at Curabit. Both have a background in Computer Engineering with an inclination towards machine learning and artificial intelligence. They have worked together on multiple technical and non-technical projects prior to Curabit and complement each other’s strengths well. Both the team members have had exposure to leadership positions in the capacity of large student run organizations. They were to bring their ideas and proposals forward in Tokyo, at the Social Venture Challenge (SVC) held at the Harvard World MUN 2020 conference. However, due to the pandemic, they had to adhere to the virtual format of SVC, where they won and received a lifelong Resolution Fellowship by the Resolution Project, New York (www.resolutionproject.org).
Curabit is a product of a discussion between Aman and Rishabh in the college canteen. Navigating the highly competitive and broken landscape of the Indian education system, it is not new for students to feel out of their element. Going through the JEE grind themselves combined with the advent of social media, they realised that a lot of people, students or otherwise, are always fighting their own battles. This is what got them interested in mental health. As they went along with their major, they realised the power of using tech for good.
The main challenge that the business faced at the initial stage was to get any kind of acceptance from their audience (therapists). To solve this, they created initial prototypes to aid in the visualisation of the simulations to help therapists realise the potential of this technology.
Curabit was founded a month before COVID-19, currently in the prototype phase. So, as the world dived into lockdowns, they faced roadblocks in terms of working and developing ideas, collaborating with other entities and ensuring that their own mental health remained in good shape.
VR in therapy is something that is relatively new, especially in India. With the general public facing severe mental health issues due to the pandemic, it is the correct time for us to step in with the solution they are offering to support our fragile mental health infrastructure. They also strive to meet ethical standards and their solutions are rooted deeply in empirical research.
Moving through their research and trials phase, they have had therapists comment on their ideas and progress, one of them being:
“Introduction of VR into therapy may also possibly shorten the duration of the course of therapy as VR by itself administered under the supervision of a therapist would be a significant tool in alleviating the client’s symptoms – anxiety for instance. This project is unique and I am sure, once introduced, it would spread either by word of mouth or other means from the clients it was administered on, to others keen to seek therapy, as well as the general population. This would further aid in the process of de-stigmatization that we mental health professionals work so hard towards.”
- Nikita D’Souza, Clinical Psychologist, Indla’s Mental Wellness Clinic
On asking Aman about his view on the start-up community in India, he had to say, “The community is extremely proactive and energetic. The environment is becoming more and more conducive, especially with so much funding coming in for healthcare. The start-up community in India has grown quite rapidly in the last couple of years. With the Niti Aayog and the growth of VC funding the start-up ecosystem has seen a massive boost.”
Even though being an early-age entrepreneur, his advice for young founders and start-ups is, “Our main advice would be to not be disheartened by rejection. You just need one opportunity to click, from which you gain enough momentum to progress, so long as you believe in your ideas and their impact. Everything can be learnt and nothing is beyond your reach.”
They have a dream that they hope to fulfil with this venture: more effective treatment, more patients being treated, lesser relapse rate, lesser cost and time incurred - all leading to happier people and more smiles. “Our primary focus from here on is to work with therapists and academicians to ensure maximum efficacy in the treatment of mental health disorders through meticulous research and experimentation. Even though it comes with its own nuances and challenges, being part of the deep tech revolution, being able to lead that research and introduce therapists to something they see potential in is extremely empowering. With leaping innovations in technology, we aim to inspire by making Curabit an example of using tech for good,” concluded Aman.
You can check out Curabit at: www.curabit.in