WINTER PARK, Fla. - Ask any physical therapist about their biggest challenge, and they'll tell you it's getting patients to finish their therapy. Most patients go to a handful of sessions, then stop.
But what if going to therapy meant being transported to a whole new world? What if it felt more like a video game? A Central Florida company has come up with a way to revolutionize it.
Taylor Blackwell was 19 when he lost two limbs in a motorcycle accident. Blackwell’s leg was severely crushed and his arm got caught in the bike and pulled out. After 18 surgeries, doctors had to amputate above the knee. His dream of joining the military was shattered.
Forced to switch gears, he decided to help other amputees. He reconnected with friend, Matthew Hogan, who’d suffered a serious injury while in the Navy and was already working on a way to change how physical and occupational therapy operates.
Hogan started a company called M3D-VR.
"What we really want to accomplish is the improvement of the quality of life," Hogan said.
He connected virtual reality to an omni-directional treadmill built by a company called Infinadeck. A virtual reality headset transports the patient to anywhere they want to go. Blackwell has spent hours on the deck, helping and advising the team. Hogan is working to take it next level.
"What we wanted to do is bring ramification to that. We wanted the patient to be involved in their therapy by challenging themselves through game play."
Patients can be fitted with sensors, allowing a therapist to track, and improve on their rehabilitation. Chief Operating Officer Rob Oglesby says the virtual reality aspect is a gift to some patients.
"There's just so much that we can do by immersing people into environments which they would either, one have no opportunity to be immersed in any other way or immersing them back in environments where they're experiencing things that maybe they had lost." Suddenly physical therapy appointments don't seem like such a chore.
The M3D-VR team is in the early stages of the concept, but say they’ve been showing it off and proving what can be done. Hogan says the future is bright.
"We feel that for right now what we're developing would be perfect for major hospitals, your VA, your AdventHealth's, your Orlando Health's."
When asked if they’re on the cusp of revolutionizing physical and occupational therapy, Hogan responded, "I do not mean to make this sound egotistical, but yes."