Virtual Reality for Stroke Rehabilitation: Overview
ScienceSoft has been a provider of healthcare software development services for 15 years.
The healthcare VR market hit $336.9 million in 2020 and is forecasted to reach $2.2 billion by 2027. The software segment will grow at a CAGR of 26.7% during this period. VR for stroke recovery remains a promising application of the technology as it enables higher patient engagement compared to conventional therapy.
VR system architecture
Regaining physical function
VR exercises where a patient has to manipulate virtual objects (pick up, squeeze, move, etc.). Repetitive goal-oriented exercises with an increasing difficulty help a patient’s brain build new neural pathways that stimulate the improvement of motor skills.
Improving cognitive abilities
VR exercises with scenarios of a varying cognitive load, e.g., from remembering the sequence of objects to piloting a plane. The focus is on attention, memory, and spatial orientation impairments after a stroke.
Patient profile storage
Each patient has a profile with their VR sessions history. Therapists use a home page of the VR application to switch between profiles and see patients’ progress in stroke recovery and their stumbling blocks.
Rehabilitation exercises library
A collection of exercises of various types, scenarios and complexity to cater to different groups of post-stroke patients and increase their engagement.
Rehabilitation program editor
The editor allows a therapist to build personalized programs (choose and modify exercises, set up a training schedule, etc.) for stroke recovery of each patient and adjust the programs when needed.
Real-time program adaptivity
With machine learning algorithms integrated with VR, the intensity of an exercise is automatically adjusted in real time based on a patient’s performance (e.g., the speed or the number of moving objects is increased/decreased).
The AI system evaluates a patient’s performance according to the pre-set metrics. The results are tracked over time on a dashboard to build a picture of the patient’s stroke recovery.
A patient receives positive visual and audio reinforcement of the right actions in VR training (scores, verbal encouragements) aimed at boosting their motivation.
Portable VR hardware allows post-stroke training at home under the supervision of a therapist or independently at later stages of recovery. It increases the opportunity of building more efficient long-term stroke recovery programs and broadens the number of patients that can access such rehabilitation.
A Swiss startup that invented MindMaze, an FDA-approved brain telerehabilitation platform powered by VR and AI, got $100 million in investments in 2016 and is currently valued at $1 billion.
An Austrian startup Rewellio that created a VR platform specifically for post-stroke treatment generated €800K in investments in 2019. The platform got certified in the US (FDA), Europe (CE), Canada, and Australia.
Note: The cloud-based infrastructure is a suggested choice as it provides scalability and enhanced performance capacity for data-intensive VR.
HMD (for fully immersive VR)
Post-stroke patients without movement ability saved in the impaired limb can’t perform standard VR rehabilitation exercises.
Introducing an additional VR mode based on the “mirror therapy” strategy. When a patient moves a non-impaired limb, the VR system mimics the same movement in an impaired limb visualized on the screen, which stimulates the patient’s brain in a way as if it was a real movement. Over time, such practice reorganizes the brain’s neurons and helps recover some of the lost function.
Patients can make compensatory movements while training motor skills (e.g., trunk rotation or excessive leaning forward), which activates the “wrong” muscles and becomes an obstacle to recovery. Many VR systems can’t assess motion quality in detail and consider the exercise complete even if it’s done with compensatory patterns.
VR equipment can be supplemented with sensors that acquire EMG signals (the data on muscle activity), for example, such as in wireless Myo Gesture Control Armband. Next, the AI-based performance assessment tool analyses the muscle activity to evaluate and give feedback on the accuracy of task execution (jagged vs. smooth movement) and detect compensatory movements.
General cost factors
- Volume of the content (number of 3D models) and software to render it.
- Number of user roles (basic users – patients; advanced users – therapists; admins).
- Number and complexity of training programs.
- VR testing (clinical validation and usability testing) and optimization.
Additional cost factors
- VR hardware (from commercial to custom-built).
- Development and integration with AI technology (for user performance assessment).
- Cloud services (based on the volume of cloud resources demanded).
ScienceSoft offers development of VR for rehabilitation solutions, including VR for stroke rehabilitation, drawing on 15-year experience in healthcare software development and 24-year experience in 3D modeling.
VR for stroke rehabilitation: consulting
- Help decide on the system’s functionality.
- Choose the right tech stack.
- Design a scalable architecture.
- Define product development and management roadmap.
- Estimate TCO of the VR system.
- Estimate ROI.
VR for stroke rehabilitation: development
The service covers all the stages of VR system creation:
- Business analysis and research.
- Architecture design.
- 3D modeling.
- UX and UI design.
- Software development.
- VR testing.
- Continuous support and evolution.
ScienceSoft is an international software development and IT consulting company with 31 years of experience in IT. You can learn more about our VR software development offering or drop us a line to talk over your product idea directly.