Breakthrough Innovation: The VR System Enabling Stroke Rehabilitation

Lior Novik (Maariv)

Software engineering students from ORT Braude College have developed an innovative virtual reality system designed to help stroke patients by “improving and rehabilitating arm and hand movements through play.”

Students from the Software Engineering Department at ORT Braude College of Engineering recently demonstrated an innovative development for the very first time: a virtual reality system that aids stroke rehabilitation by combining play with personalized therapy that focuses on reaching out (REACH) and grasping (PINCH).

The system was developed as part of the final project for two pairs of software engineering students – Bar Atli / Eyal Maoz and Noam Dror / Bar Korkus – and uses VR technology to create virtual worlds where limb movements can be practiced through personally customized play. The patient simply puts on a VR headset and performs various movements in accordance with the game. The system monitors these movements and adapts the game’s progress to the patient’s specific individual capabilities. As a result, patients can practice by themselves, even at times when no occupational therapists are available, thereby increasing the number of hours they spend on therapy while hospitalized and speeding up rehabilitation processes.

This project, led by Dr. Anat Dahan and performed in collaboration with Dr. Orit Braun Benyamin from the Rehabilitation Biomechanics Lab, stems from cooperation between ORT Braude’s Software Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Departments and the paramedical staff at Galilee Medical Center, Nahariya, led by Dorit Itach. It is intended to produce solutions that will improve stroke patients’ rehabilitation processes, and is also supported by ORT Braude’s flagship community-oriented engineering program.

“Stroke patients need many hours of practice and rehabilitation to regain various basic movements, like reaching out and grasping objects,” said Dr. Dahan. “The new system makes it possible for patients to improve and rehabilitate their arm and hand movements through an enjoyable game, and also to continue practicing outside normal therapy hours, which promotes a faster return to their regular routine.”

Bar Atli, a student from the PINCH project team, commented: “We created the game in a virtual reality system in order to help patients recover in the best possible way, with therapies specifically tailored to their individual needs. The game format means that patients genuinely enjoy the therapy, and therapists can monitor their rehabilitation progress.”

Bar Korkus, a student on the REACH team, added: “We wanted to help people with disabilities by integrating the world of medicine with the world of programming. As part of the project, we visited a hospital rehabilitation ward to better understand patients’ needs, as well as medical professionals’ requirements, which helped us to design a convenient, user-friendly system. We are all very proud to have participated in a project like this, which taught us a lot and helped us think outside the box.”