USING VIRTUAL REALITY TO ASSIST REHABILITATION
When we think of virtual reality (VR), we tend to think of gaming and entertainment and as a commercial area that is constantly evolving, it is currently the largest VR market. While VR concepts have existed for more than thirty years however, it’s only relatively recently that the industry has started to show its potential application in a variety of markets such as architecture, manufacturing, training and education.
It has also been making headway in the healthcare sector. VR and AR are becoming increasingly utilised in patient recovery and rehabilitation, the treatment of mental health issues and training for and administering surgical procedures. (Think of the usefulness of Google Glass in an operating theatre when a surgeon can use them during surgeries to be advised on how to proceed while remaining hands-free).
So far, so good, but when it comes to brain injury assessment, orthopaedic rehabilitation, balance exercises and cognitive functions, current VR capability is restricted to single users interacting only with the practitioner.
A new consortium, PRIME-VR2, has created an end-to-end, digital development platform, to further collaboration between stakeholders in the current VR industry infrastructure. This integrates expertise in virtual reality, additive manufacturing, 3D geometrical form generation, user interface design, user-centred design, electronics design, systems integration and rehabilitation – for example, to produce effective VR rehabilitation environments enabling patients with a disability to practice real-life situations in a controlled, safe environment, aiming to improve physical stamina, capability and cognitive skills.
The consortium also includes other academic partners from the Università di Pisa, the University of Strathclyde, the University of Oulu and University College London plus six SMEs that will focus on technological implementation.
The 3-year project, which has been awarded 4 million euros, will begin on 1 October 2019, and will last for 3 years.
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