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VR Serious Games Redefining Physical Therapy

Image credit: VRPhysio®

The Virtual Reality Physiotherapy (VRP) Market is expected to experience an exponential growth over the coming years.

Physiotherapy has become an integral part of any rehabilitation process and awareness of the importance of Physiotherapy is constantly increasing. More and more people are experiencing injuries due to car accidents, sport accidents, working in front of computers, staring at smartphones and more.

Physical therapy helps shorten hospital stays, provides a cost-effective alternative to surgery and helps patients regain an active daily life. Traditionally, therapies require repetitive, oftentimes arduous verbal and tactile feedback from the clinician. Patients don’t want to do their physical therapy exercises because they are either painful or monotonous. In addition, many typical treatments also lack objective criteria for measuring progress. The whole process can frustrate the patient and therapist alike as they both struggle to measure the patient's ability in a given task.

To meet the growing demand for rehabilitation of these injuries, an increasing number of physical therapists are turning to video game technology as a way of providing a more immersive and engaging experience when performing physical therapy exercises. At the same time, this solution would provide physical therapists with meaningful data and analysis, enabling them to track a patient’s progress and utilize invaluable data and insights to adjust the rehabilitation process according to each patient’s needs.

Israeli start-up VRPhysio is at the forefront of harnessing gaming technology to help treat neck, spinal and other injuries.

VRPhysio® is a virtual reality rehabilitation platform for physical therapy that aims to provide a captivating experience for patients of any age.

Designed to stimulate people to perform specific movements while serving as an accurate tracking tool for physical therapists, its VR games and interactive guides monitor patients through their prescribed rehab or preventive exercises and measure their progress. Utilizing real-time data analysis based on advanced algorithms, the program also generates progress reports containing high-resolution metrics on improvement.

The Solution

VRPhysio’s solution combines a virtual reality device consisting of a headset and optional compatible weights and biosensors with an app downloaded to the user's smartphone. The smartphone is inserted into the headset and is used as the device display.

Patients wear the VR headset equipped with head and body-tracking sensors that map split-second data of every movement. Machine-learning algorithms calculate performance compared to previous sessions, providing physical therapists with valuable insights regarding improved range of motion.

The user experiences the training as a fun and immersive game, through which he/she conducts the correct exercises planned by the physiotherapist.

Remote data access allows the healthcare professional to monitor user’s workout and change the gaming experience according to the user’s needs and progress.

The first use of the VRPhysio® platform is in the clinic, and then after setting up his/her program, the player is able to continue the rehabilitation at home using their own smartphone and the VRPhysio headset, all under the guidance and supervision of his/her healthcare professional online.

The VRPhysio® Home Edition expected release is Q1 2018.

Their first product – VRPhysio Neck – includes a series of cervical-spine exercises suitable for physical rehabilitation treatment.

VRPhysio® Story

Eran Orr, the founder of VRPhysio®, is an ex-Israeli Air Force F16 pilot, with a BA in Business Management, Government and Politics and an MBA in Entrepreneurship.

Eran’s personal story behind his idea of combining Virtual Reality and Physical Therapy is truly inspirational.

After 12 years of serving as a pilot in the Israeli Air-Force, as he finished a routine flight duty in his F-16 fighter jet squadron, Eran began to experience a sharp pain in his right hand that radiated to his neck caused by active flying. After some time, the pain had progressed to the point where he couldn’t sleep or hold his child, and he was grounded from active flight duty.

He was diagnosed with a herniated disk, a condition that could have been prevented by performing frequent exercises.

After some investigation, Eran noticed that his condition was common among many pilots in the air force, which made him wonder whether there could be a solution to this common problem.

It was during the tireless hours of rehab that Orr became the most frustrated.

“During my rehabilitation process I discovered that I couldn’t keep up with the neck physical therapy homework exercises, no matter how motivated I was, and that my physical therapist had no way to monitor or guide me once I left his clinic.

“When I tried convincing young IAF pilots to do preventative exercises it did not work either.

“As a result of these personal experiences, I decided to connect physical therapy and virtual reality technology, in a manner that will allow people do preventative exercises or physical therapy exercises while playing enjoyable games.

The basic “hook” concept of the VRPhysio® product, which becomes immediately apparent upon using it for the first time, is that it makes the user feel that they are playing a game that they actually enjoy rather than doing rehabilitation. The body motions that the various game options require to play are actually programmed to replicate the exercise regimen that has been prescribed for their rehab. Indeed, the beauty of the VR platform is that it totally disconnects the patient from his or her surroundings and exclusively focuses them on their rehabilitation exercises

With 13 people, including 10 in Israel and three in Boston, the company initially raised $750,000 in crowdfunding. They have also become part of the Microsoft for Startups program called BizSpark

Earlier this month, Joshua Drew, Sr Technical Evangelist for Startups at Microsoft, posted an interesting article to LinkedIn Pulse titled “Microsoft Working with Startups”, addressing their collaboration. Here are the excerpts:

“For the past few months, I have been working with a company called VRPhysio. They are a data driven health company but specifically focusing on rehabilitation health using a virtual reality device. They are part of the Microsoft for Startups program called BizSpark and are able to take advantage of software and services along with other cool collaboration opportunities like the one that presented itself a few weeks ago”

“At our New England Research and Development Center in Cambridge MA, the VRPhysio team set up shop for an all-day user testing and feedback event for Microsoft and its employees. The goal was to not only to introduce the product but to gain valuable insights from employees who work at a desk for long hours. As you can imagine, the strain on the neck and back can be tough at times and difficult to treat without a physician present. VRPhysio brings the treatment to the office by providing virtual reality exercises to be performed during the course of the day. The data that is gathered can be analyzed for user specific treatment options at a later date.”

VRPhysio® is planned to launch its products in selected clinics and elite sports teams in the Boston area – where Orr is based – soon.