VRPhysio uses virtual gaming to help pain in neck

Startup matches virtual reality with physiotherapy to help patients exercise at home for speedier recovery

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

VRPhysio headset (Courtesy)
VRPhysio headset (Courtesy)

When Eran Orr was serving in the Israeli army he got a neck injury that he later realized could have been avoided through preventative physiotherapy to strengthen his muscles.

“Once I finished my military I realized how common these injuries are,” Orr said in a phone interview “I also realized that people just don’t do their excercises at home.”

Neck injuries are on the rise due to car accidents, sport accidents, working in front of computers, and staring at smartphones. Combat soldiers using night goggles or airplane and helicopter pilots often suffer neck injuries while on duty.

Now, as the founder and chief executive officer of a Tel Aviv-based startup, VRPhysio, Orr aims to match virtual reality and physiotherapy to help patients practice their exercises at home and speed up recovery or just prevent injuries through the use of virtual gaming.

The company has developed a medical device which is a combination of hardware and software: it includes a headset, a mobile app, weights and body sensors to monitor body movement and a set of virtual reality games that aim to make exercising more fun. The devices were designed by medical, science and technology experts.

The company is also developing bio feedback sensors that will be able to monitor what the body is experiencing and give immediate feedback about any changes that should be made to the workout. The workout can be done outside or at home, by people of any age alone or with friends online, an online demo of the system says. Remote data access allows healthcare professionals to monitor the progress and change the workout plan as needed.

VRPhysio, which has almost completed raising seed funding of $750,000, is starting its manufacturing process at plants in Afula and Tiberias in Israel. The first product will be aimed at neck injuries and is in the final stage of getting FDA clearance for marketing and sales in the US, said Orr, who targets the product launch within the next six months. Other products will be aimed at other parts of the body, he said.

By combining physiotherapy with virtual reality the company places itself at the intersection of two growing markets, said Orr.

“Physiotherapy has become an integral part of any rehabilitation process and the awareness to the importance of physiotherapy is constantly increasing,” Orr said. “The market for physical therapy equipment is an $18 billion market a year and expected to rise.”

Augmented reality and virtual reality deals have witnessed a boom in recent years, with tech giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook getting involved in the sector. There was a record of 135 deals and $700 million in funding in this space in 2015, according to data compiled by New York data company CB Insights. In 2014 Facebook acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion.

“There are forecasts that virtual reality devices will be a market of over $100 billion by 2020,” said Orr.

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