Since the beginning of 2019, HumanXR has been working with physiotherapy practice Fysio043 to investigate the use of Virtual Reality (VR) in physiotherapy. Fysio043, founded by Ed Sassen and Jeroen Schreurs, has four locations in The Netherlands. In addition to first-line clients, they mainly focus on seniors with, among other things, chronic diseases. The customer experience is of great importance to them and this distinguishes them from other practices. Fysio043 facilitates research into the use of future technologies for physical therapy, such as Virtual Reality. They do this in collaboration with HumanXR and with various experts at Zuyd University of Applied Sciences.

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So what about virtual reality and physical therapy?

The use of Virtual Reality for physical therapy is promising, but still at an early stage. With HumanXR newest VR worlds, people can cycle through an interactive landscape. Or doing exercises with virtual balls and other objects. Scientists are now executing research in many places and HumanXR is working on an extensive application that will make exercise fun again for people with physical limitations or chronic complaints. Not as a replacement for therapy, but as a supplement and for promoting healthy daily exercise. That is why the research focuses primarily on possibilities for physical activity: where can Virtual Reality be used as an extension of physical therapy? In order to support the research and to be able to answer this question, we have made one of our HumanXR systems with new VR concepts available for research at the Pottenberg location of Fysio043. Both the employees of Fysio043 and the students of Zuyd University of Applied Sciences can make use of this.

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But how does it work?

In physiotherapy, the client’s request for help is leading. The next step is to look at what the client needs in order to solve this question. What is missing for this client? Is it muscle strength, mobility, stability, movement, etc.? When this is clear, we can see if Virtual Reality can be used to improve one of these functions. We are also investigating whether Virtual Reality can be used at the client’s home to do their exercises on a daily basis. Would this motivate people more and also result in cost savings? The research with students from the physical therapy and Maastricht Acadamy of Media Design and Technology (MAMDT) has already yielded a number of results. We discovered that Virtual Reality can help clients to be more cooperative and consistent in their exercises. Virtual Reality can also provide helpful visual and auditory feedback, making it easier to perform the exercises. However, it is very important that the social interaction with the physical therapist remains present in order to stimulate movement activities that are related to daily life.

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So there are many possibilities for Virtual Reality in physical therapy. Making the right application is of great importance! In the coming period, Fysio043 and HumanXR, in cooperation with students, will go even deeper into the subject matter, so that we get an increasingly clear picture of the possibilities. There is still a lot to discover, but the first step has been taken!