Ulster University spinout is using gamification for new approach to stroke rehabilitation therapy

Published date23 March 2023
The eXRt virtual physiotherapy platform, which utilises a virtual reality headset, uses fun custom-designed games to increase the amount of time patients spend on their physiotherapy programmes. The platform is available 24 hours a day and physiotherapists can log in to monitor patient progress. Trials have taken place with UK healthcare providers and have recorded patients increasing their average time spent on physio by 24 minutes

EXRt co-founder and CEO Dr Dominic Holmes has a personal interest in the area. "My undergraduate degree at Ulster University was in computer science and games development. My granny had a stroke and that drew me towards doing a PhD in rehabilitation technologies. It was very hard to see her suffer and I asked myself if I could use my computer science skills to help in some way."

His PhD project investigated how gaming, virtual reality (VR) and immersive technologies could be used to engage stroke survivors and other patients with their physiotherapy programmes.

"One of the biggest reasons why patients discontinue physiotherapy programmes is that they are not 100 per cent suited to them," he says. "The programmes can be boring or even painful. We use artificial intelligence (AI) to adapt the programmes to make sure they suit the patients' abilities and skill levels. That helps them to keep doing it and the game element engages with them to make it fun."

After completing his PhD Holmes was asked to participate in an EU Horizon 2020 research programme project which would look at bringing the technology to a point where it could be commercialised and launched on the market. "I was the lead developer on the project. We received £2 million from Horizon over three phases. We got some really good results from the project, and we decided that we should act on them. I established the company with my co-founder Dr Darryl Charles in late 2019."

Not much happened until late 2021 due to a lack of finance. "That's when we started to work on it. With support from Innovation Ulster support we got on the ICURe programme."

ICURe is a programme of commercialisation support for teams of academic researchers from within Ulster University who wish to explore the commercial potential of their research.

"It's all about market discovery and market...

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