Virtual Reality to aid patients during Physiotherapy tasks at home

Virtual Reality to aid patients during Physiotherapy tasks at home

London: Physiotherapy patients could soon complete their exercises at home under expert guidance using the Virtual Reality technology.

Researchers at WMD, University of Warwick, have succeeded in combining VR technology with 3D motion capture, which could allow real movements to be accurately translated onto an avatar that can be viewed in a virtual environment, according to a report published in the Journal ‘PLOS ONE’.

Currently, patients rarely get any expert guidance or instruction in completing physiotherapy exercises while at home. Often patients become anxious about not getting the exercise right, or simply getting bored by repetitiveness of the movements.

Researchers at the Institute of Digital Healthcare, WMG, University of Warwick, had to investigate whether people were able to accurately coordinate and follow the movements of an avatar in a virtual environment. They asked participants to step in time with an avatar viewed through a VR headset.

Unknown to the participants, the researchers subtly slowed down or speeded up one of the avatar's steps, such that the participants would have to correct their own stepping movement to stay in time. The effect this correction had on their step timing and synchronisation with the avatar was measured.

"We found that participants struggled to keep in time if only visual information was present. However, when we added realistic footstep sounds in addition to the visual information, the more realistic multisensory information allowed participants to accurately follow the avatar,” said Omar Khan, lead author.

"There is huge potential for consumer VR technologies to be used for both providing guidance to physiotherapy exercises, but also to make the exercises more interesting. This study has focused on the crucial question of how well people can follow a virtual guide," Dr Mark Elliott, Principal investigator on the project, added.

"We now plan to investigate other types of movements working closely in partnership with physiotherapists, to establish the areas of physiotherapy that will benefit most from this technology,” said Prof Theo Arvanitis, co-author and Director of the Institute of Digital Healthcare.

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