February 27, 2019

How Virtual Reality Can Support Patient Rehabilitation


Emerging applications in the VR space are creating many opportunities in areas of education, gaming and retail — which are all thriving in the fast-evolving world of technology.

However, one area that shouldn’t be overlooked is health — specifically patient rehabilitation.

For those that have tried VR, you’ll remember the first time your senses went into overdrive as they tried to adapt to the surroundings. After a few sessions, the experience becomes more enjoyable as you learn how to cope with the virtual environment. Over time, what this actually does is give your brain small doses of neuroplasticity — the ability of the human brain to physically change based on a combination of thoughts, emotions and behaviour.

In the same way that meditation balances the brain, VR can empower it.

Virtual Reality can offer a whole new recovery process to patients with brain and spinal injuries. With current therapy, a patient will be bored, perform slowly and have lack of compliance during the session.

But using VR for just 30 minutes a day can improve their motor skills, keep them engaged and give them a true sense of achievement. It’s all about making their rehabilitation feel more intuitive and trying to restore the feeling of interacting with everyday objects.

A young boy experiences a simulated airport environment with ‘Blue Room’, a tool designed to help children with autism overcome their phobias.

Companies like Immersive Rehab are currently developing a product to use as a rehabilitation tool for people with upper limb mobility limitations. Students at Murdoch University developed ‘Neuromender’, designed to assist with stroke rehabilitation. And in the UK, a team from Newcastle University have tested ‘Blue Room’, an immersive virtual reality tool that’s seen 40 per cent of children treated showing improvement at just two weeks.

A snapshot of Neuromender’s gameplay.

It’s small steps like these which will overhaul the ways we help patients and a clear sign that we should always challenge ourselves to think of innovative ways of building around humans — all humans.

Burim Metolli

Experience Designer

Burim creates enhanced digital experiences using his background in animation, visual effects and UI design. He loves to explore technology, apps and software that serve humans for the greater good. In his downtime, you’ll see him behind a screen, playing football, finding the strength to support Arsenal or having a nap.

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