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How virtual reality is being made essential in healthcare

How virtual reality is being made essential in healthcare

In 2012, Tej Tadi, a neuroscientist and engineer, started his company in a Swiss garage.

Not the usual kind, but in “Le Garage”, a building provided by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) for start-ups to help them get going.

Tadi, the son of physicians in Hyderabad, India, had studied electronics engineering before moving to Switzerland to pursue a postgraduate doctoral degree (PhD) at the EPFL. And while working in Swiss hospitals to earn his degree, Tadi noticed that stroke victims weren’t fully recovering because traditional rehabilitation treatments were inadequate and, worse, hadn’t changed in years.

For his PhD, Tadi had focused on combining virtual reality (VR) and electrical neuro-imaging. He realised that his research could be used commercially to help stroke patients and his idea was to “gamify” rehabilitation for people suffering brain injuries such as strokes. And so his company, MindMaze, was born.

Martin Ciupa, Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer for MindMaze

The Lausanne-based enterprise is a vivid example of how private businesses are using the Eight Essential technologies identified by PwC – in this case VR – to transform traditional industries - and people’s lives in the process.  

For years, VR has been most associated with the gaming industry. But these days it’s altering just about every sector from recruitment to healthcare.

Following injury like a stroke, the brain only has a short span of time to recover. And while the human touch is essential, most patients spend limited time with therapists – unless they have access to expensive private care. Often, by the time patients are sent home from hospital, the window for recovery has closed and their motivation to do rehab has been sapped. Tadi saw huge potential with immersive and intuitive games.

MindMaze has a product platform family called MindMotion, that offers a suite of therapeutic games designed to encourage normative body movements. The product is currently being rolled out globally (e.g., it is FDA approved).

Here’s how the product works: imagine a stroke victim has upper arm impairments. The computer provides a gamified motion-based experience, e.g., a game like racing cars, flying planes or slicing fruit falling from the sky with a samurai sword. The victim’s actual kinematic movements are detected, and recommendations are made to exercise normative motions (e.g., a patient may compensate upper arm movement impairment by twisting the torso).

MindMaze uses sophisticated machine learning based motion detection, to measure the kinematic movement of the patient while exercising, and game performance. They are now in the process of building additional Artificial Intelligence (AI) mechanisms that collect data about that behaviour which can be fed back into the game to recalibrate optimal game levels based on performance and therapy targets.

“We are attempting to reinvent therapy so that we collect data and can approach this in a much more scientific way,” says Martin Ciupa, Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer for MindMaze. “In the future, we can data mine for which therapy treatments are best and which are not as good as others.”

“We are attempting to reinvent therapy so that we collect data and can approach this in a much more scientific way,”

Martin Ciupa, Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer for MindMaze.

MindMaze is Switzerland's first unicorn

In 2016, the business received $100 million in an investment round led by India’s Hinduja Group. This valued the company at $1 billion – the largest valuation ever for a Swiss start-up.

Meanwhile, MindMaze is moving into other industries. This year, the company entered into a partnership with McLaren Racing to develop a product called MindDrive, which will capture key neural signatures from the racing car driver and transmit them to the trackside medical team in real-time. The idea is to capture performance data and ultimately improve driver safety.

This could have big implications for driver safety generally, as well as be used with autonomous vehicles and in the transportation sector.

“Those that are able to be agile and to adapt to technology opportunities will maintain their profit margins and use them to enter new markets,” says Ciupa. “Digital transformation is the theme of our time. With AI, Mixed Reality, IoT, and others PwC mention, we can all make this transformation with increased productivity, personalisation and quality features that customers want – those business needs are the focus, the tech is just the enabler!”

Contact us

Peter Englisch

Global Family Business and EMEA Entrepreneurial and Private Business Leader, Partner, PwC Germany

Alexandra Firnges

EMEA Marketing & Communications Leader, PwC Germany

Tel: +49 406 378 1929