Currently prescribed physiotherapy often requires patients to complete regular exercises at home. But outside of the clinic patients rarely receive any guidance, often leading to poor adherence, with patients becoming anxious about not doing the exercises correctly or simply getting bored.
A new study, however, points towards a combination of virtual reality (VR) and motion capture technologies as a potential solution that could provide guidance and feedback to patients outside a clinical setting.
To investigate whether people could accurately coordinate and follow the movements of an avatar in a virtual environment, researchers asked participants to step in time with an avatar viewed through a VR headset.
Without the knowledge of the participants, the researchers subtly slowed down or speeded up one of the avatar’s steps, then measured the effect this correction had on the patients’ step timing and synchronization.
The researchers noted that participants were able to correct their own stepping to stay in tune with the digital instructor and were best at following the exercises when realistic footstep sounds were added.
Working in close partnership with physiotherapists, the researchers are now investigating other types of movements to establish the areas of physiotherapy that would benefit the most from these technologies.