Virtual Wembury VR Exercise Bike for Rehabilitation

Using immersive VR exercise bike for rehabilitating ICU patients

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust (TSDFT) Immersive VR Lab has worked in collaboration with Birmingham University’s Professor Bob Stone, to install a VR exercise bike for rehabilitation of ICU patients. The VR system is connected to an exercise bike, allowing patient to cycle and escape the hospital setting. The VR screen shows the character in first person cycling through Wembury in Devon. The speed of the cyclist is linked to the patient’s speed on the bike. To encourage immersion and further usage, the system also registers the distance covered by the patient. The system brings in an additional component of competitiveness as it registers the patient’s daily achievement and develops a competitor that the patient can compete with upon their next usage. This helps patients in gradually improving their performance and rehabilitating.

Professor Bob Stone trialled the Virtual Wembury experience with TSDFT Intensive Care patient, late Nick Richards. Nick broke his neck many years ago in an accident which left him unable to walk or grip on anything. Virtual Wembury had an incredibly positive effect on Nick as it allowed him to stay immersed and look forward to the next session. He enjoyed the competitive element and was heavily involved in providing constructive feedback to the team. Sadly Nick passed away but his enthusiasm and feedback motivated our team to continue working on similar projects for improving patient experience and offering rehabilitative options.

Dr. Tod Guest, Head of ICU at TSDFT is involved with the Immersive VR Lab and he was the clinical lead on the Virtual Wembury project. Tod says “We have had significant success using a VR experience (Virtual Wembury) in the setting of rehabilitation following critical illness. Physical exercise is a critical element of effective rehabilitation, but due to the constraints of the patients illness and the physical environment of ICU and acute wards traditional ways of encouraging engagement with exercise are limited. Patients can rapidly lose interest and motivation, and ultimately do not undertake adequate physical activity. The VR applications have shown success and a lot of promise to improve the interest and motivation of patients who can benefit from physical rehabilitation”.

We continue to collaborate with Professor Bob Stone and plan on running a case study based research using the Virtual Wembury experience in 2021.

*Insert VR Wembury film here*

Authors: Payal Ghatnekar and Tod Guest