Virtual reality avatar to help physiotherapy at home

Researchers from the University of Warwick showed that virtual reality (VR) combined with 3D Motion capture could allow movements to be translated onto an avatar that the patient can follow. They accomplished this using consumer VR technologies currently available. Research showed that these consumer virtual reality technologies could be used for both providing guidance to physiotherapy exercises, but also to make the exercises more interesting and encourage people to complete the course. This research published in the Journal PLOS ONE has focused on whether people can accurately follow the movements of a virtual avatar.

Currently prescribed physiotherapy often requires patients to complete regular exercises at home. Outside of the clinic, patients rarely receive any guidance other than a leaflet of sketches or static photographs to instruct them on how to complete their exercises. This leads to poor adherence, with patients becoming anxious about not getting the exercise right, or simply getting bored by the repetitiveness of the movements. Virtual reality could help physiotherapy patients complete their exercises at home successfully.

The advent of consumer virtual reality technology combined with 3D motion capture allows real movements to be accurately translated onto an avatar that can be viewed in a virtual environment. Researchers at the Institute of Digital Healthcare, WMG, University of Warwick are investigating whether this technology can be used to provide guidance to physiotherapy patients, by providing a virtual physiotherapist in the home to demonstrate the prescribed exercises. Researchers 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.

With increasing health care costs and also a shortage of healthcare professions there is a growing need for technologies that enable remote monitoring and treatment. It is also important that these technologies are effective and easy to use and this research study shows that.