Introducing VR4REHAB

How did VR4Rehab come to be and what is your purpose?

VR4REHAB was born in 2017 as an Interreg NWE project focused on developing VR and AR-based rehabilitation tools in co-creation with seven European partners.

VR4REHAB was born out of a need to address the lack of Virtual and Augmented Reality products on the market, in 2017 there were still no tools specifically designed to provide an environment for non-experts and their therapists to safely extend rehabilitation outside of clinics.

VR4REHAB was created to meet this need and to optimize rehabilitation protocols for patients and their therapists.

The goal of VR4REHAB researchers and clinical staff have been from the beginning to work together to provide patients with stimulating VR interventions, which can help optimize rehabilitation protocols and facilitate reintegration into daily life.

What have been your main activities over these 3 years?

The project foresaw from the beginning, the full involvement of SMEs active in the field of VR, research institutes, clinics, and patients.

VR4REHAB started with the organisation of five hackathons, which gathered the expertise of entrepreneurs, patients, rehabilitation staff, and technical specialists; from each hackathon, a long list of ideas concerning rehabilitation with VR and AR emerged.

The best ideas generated during the hackathons then went through a development phase: the game jams. This type of event aimed to develop concepts based on VR and AR technology built on the ideas that emerged in the five hackathons held previously. Each game jam focused on one of five themes, pain management, engagement, and immersion to promote treatment adherence, behavioural and cognitive training in children with brain injury, lower limbs and mobility, and training of upper limbs. The participants were very numerous, but in the end, the jury had to choose only one team per theme.

In the last year, thanks to the combined work of SMEs, rehabilitation clinics, and universities, a series of feasibility tests – evaluating the interaction between the application, patients, and therapists – will be carried out in the workshops.

The result of this process will lead to new patient treatment protocols, which will be tested with patients and clinical staff.

Are you satisfied, or even more than satisfied? Why?

Speaking for the entire VR4REHAB team, we are more than satisfied, we are completing a great project, which will end in September 2021. This is first and foremost, because we understood one of the market’s needs and actively worked to fill this gap.

As in all projects, the pandemic of the last year has put us to the test, not only physically and mentally, and has caused significant delays in the execution of the project. However, we were able to bring together different institutes across Europe, bringing together researchers who worked over long distances.

We are also proud to have maintained the same objective from the outset, for us the patient has always been the core of our research.

What will happen at the end of this project? (2021?)

As mentioned above VR4REHAB will end as an Interreg project in September 2021, but it doesn’t end there. One of the goals we set ourselves was to make the project an active European-wide network for rehabilitation.

VR4REHAB is indeed or an Open Innovation Network that believes in the power of virtual reality for rehabilitation. Our goal is to stimulate the creation of virtual and augmented reality-based rehabilitation tools by bringing together stakeholders and exchanging knowledge.

The network not only includes the 8 teams and their 8 applications that will be realized by the end of the year but is open to welcome and collaborate with any entity working in the field of VR and AR for rehabilitation and healthcare.

What you can already find on our website is the “Open innovation library,” a free ‘search engine’ for a complete overview of globally available Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (XR) applications for health and rehabilitation. This resource contains projects, publications, and companies active in the field of XR for rehabilitation. It may therefore serve as a tool for any interested party, whether healthcare provider, business, designer, a government, or other and can be used to generate new business for existing/applied applications, identify existing tools to support clinical practice, identify opportunities for further development and new business generation, and verify ideas and concepts to avoid “reinventing the wheel”.

Why might our readers from the therapeutic VR ecosystem contact you?

What we have learned after almost four years of the project is that only by joining forces will we be able to make a real change. Virtual Reality is booming worldwide, but in the healthcare sector, specifically rehabilitation, VR is in its early days, it is necessary to operate as a single entity and not fragmented. VR4REHAB intends to become a European reference point and needs the contribution and support of all those working in the field.
With the online library, VR4REHAB to be able to provide anyone with a complete overview of what exists to date, something we did not have available at the beginning of our project but which would have been very useful to us.

We want to be able to advance research, together. Share for future care.

Congratulations and we’ll be in touch, partner!

Interview by VRforHealth Denise Silber of VR4Rehab. Check this link for more information.