PATIENTS recovering from strokes, sustained muscle contractions and sports injuries could reduce their rehabilitation time by 30% using a virtual reality gaming platform.

Academics and engineering experts from the University of Strathclyde and the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), have teamed up with UK and European partners for the initiative, which is funded by the European Commission as part of Horizon 2020, which drives economic growth through research.

Known as PRIME-VR2, the two-year project will create a digital environment using virtual reality (VR) within rehab programmes. The technology aims to improve rehab speed and completion rates by making it more stimulating and will complement traditional methods, while easing the physical demands placed on occupational and physical therapists.

The digital platform allows medical staff to track patient progress using gaming data and provide ongoing support virtually and will help patients develop upper body motor skills to improve movement in their arms, wrists, hands, and fingers, as well as providing personalised activities depending on their cognitive and physical impairments.

Those with the neurological movement disorder dystonia, for instance, can practice pouring a glass of water in the virtual world without spilling a drop in reality.

Strathclyde and NMIS are supporting industrial partners, Loud1Design with the development of the virtual programme and a prototype bespoke video game controller for each patient. The project is coordinated by the University of Pisa and includes academic partners in Malta, Oulu and London, and industry partners from the tech and gaming world.

Andrew Wodehouse, senior lecturer at the Department of Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management at the University of Strathclyde, and founder of the European Consortium, said: “The outcome of this project will make the long recovery process more engaging while permitting the patient’s performance to be recorded accurately, allowing specific and measurable goals to accelerate rehabilitation time.”

Kareema Hilton, manufacturing engineer at the NMIS, added: “We’re working closely with our colleagues in the University of Strathclyde and the wider consortium, bringing expertise from a variety of backgrounds to ensure that the virtual platform and physical controller are fully reflective of each patient’s requirements.”