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CEO of VR rehabilitation tech company on the new possibilities virtually reality offers stroke patients



SR Times speaks with Chris Brickler, founder and CEO of MyndVR on how virtual reality is allowing senior stroke survivors to explore new possibilities.

SR Times: What was the inspiration behind MyndVR?

Chris Brickler: “In 2016, we got a really deep look into Oculus and what Facebook had done with their acquisition of Oculus and what they were basically ramping up the engine to do specifically in the gaming world, and much more of a youth culture.

“When I saw what the possibilities were with VR, and its gaming engine, my mind immediately raised towards music and other types of energies in this world that might provide relief to people that might not be so mobile. 

“We started to think about older people, and thought about cognitive decline, which unfortunately, is a common situation with older people and a way that virtual reality could potentially help with some of those cases.

“Our co founder, was running about 100 skilled nursing facilities in Texas, and he was just glowing about a project that they had installed into a lot of those properties called Music and Memory, where they brought customised playlists and an iPod into a community.

“Therefore the music was important to those people in a dementia state, they were given the ability to listen to music, melodies and such and they just saw enormous results from this very simple Music and Memory programme.

“It really got me thinking after seeing the VR platform that Oculus was creating, I definitely saw that we could bring music into virtual reality in a way that’s never been absorbed by anybody before, forget if you have dementia or not, but the idea of now teleporting somebody to a nightclub that’s in the 1950s, and you’re listening to a band, playing fly me to the moon, by Frank Sinatra and you’re in a group of people, there’s people are looking at the camera. 

“You set the spherical camera right down on the front row, with the martini glass in front of it, band performing, looking at the camera occasionally and talking to the camera occasionally making you feel like you’re right there.

“That was our first prototype and we said okay, wow, we actually have something real here, because we’ve adapted this platform that is intended for gamers and we’ve adapted it to a place that can be very safe and very powerful in the healing process with older adults, so that’s kind of how we got started. 

“That was six years ago. Then we started testing with a lot of other types of therapies with a lot of other types of indications. Unfortunately, the ageing process represents a lot of things that challenge our health, mentally, physically, emotionally, and we think VR is really well positioned in the middle of all that.”

How did the idea of using virtual reality develop into where it is now?

CB: “First of all, we have to think about the older adult as a consumer. Most of the headsets have been very much designed with the horsepower in mind for a video gamer.

“We recognised early on that that Oculus platform was not going to be the platform that was good for older adults, especially in a healthcare setting. 

“I’m not saying that older adults couldn’t sit down and enjoy a piece of content that’s on Oculus and that might be on MyndVR as well.

“What we do is we package equipment up with content and create a healthcare product that professionals, nurses, and caregivers can administer. So, there’s a lot more to what we do in terms of making this product available for an older person and their caregivers.

“We reduce the cognitive load that a traditional young person video gamer would experience in a commercial VR headset, we’ve reduced the weight significantly. Our glasses that we are rolling out across the United States and around the world right now are called the HTC Vive flows, these weigh 189 grammes and they don’t have a head strap.

“When you talk about VR, as it relates to people with dementia, or any type of recovery and rehab, the last thing they want to do is is put a huge strap on their head, that could create claustrophobic feelings before they even put it on. 

“So, ergonomics is a huge, huge aspect to what we’ve defined as a route to success serving older people.”

What does MyndVR have to offer for a stroke patient who is wanting to work on mobility?

CB: “One of our big partnerships that we announced in 2022, is with a group called select rehabilitation. So they’re the largest contract therapy company in the United States, with about 21,000, PT, OT and speech therapists, that work with several 100,000 Seniors every day across 2500 or 3000 communities. They’ve selected MyndVR as their VR tool.”

“We don’t invite somebody that has suffered a stroke to sit in a room and say, here’s my VR, why don’t why don’t you go to Paris for a day? That’s not really useful in stroke rehab situations, which generally involve a therapist.

“What we’ve done is essentially empower the therapist with a new set of tools and that’s when it gets really exciting because we’re using these advanced technologies, what I consider as a quantum technology leap in VR and AI, but we’re using these technologies to produce simulated interactive, multi dimensional environments, where patients can develop life skills, static and dynamic balance. 

“We take into account things like trunk control, kinesthetic awareness, it really goes on and on, but we use it as a tool in the therapy in the process of therapy.”

How easy does MyndVR make it for therapists to be able to track patient progress?

CB: “It makes it very easy because we allow the data from the session To be recorded, and then they can come back to it and in within the electronic health records, they can then catch right up and say, okay, we’ve done this for six weeks now we need to try this aspect for another six weeks, and then they document that as they go. So it’s very much a tool like any other tool I’ve used.