Virtual Reality (VR) is an environment that is simulated by a computer. It provides an interactive multi-sensory stimulation in real-time. VR provides users with the opportunity to engage in activities within an environment that appears and feels similar to real world objects and events. Users can interact with a virtual environment through the use of standard input devices such as a keyboard and mouse, or through multimodal devices such as a wired glove. VR is becoming increasingly popular as it can be easily modified according to the needs of individuals, it is perceived as being fun and motivating for patients, and it allows researchers to incorporate elements such as feedback that have been shown to maximize motor learning. On the negative side, there is concern that the use of VR in the clinic is not possible due to the cost of the required equipment. While certainly true when this technology was created, the cost of virtual reality hardware and software has decreased and is now reasonably affordable for clinical use.
Note: In this module we did not differentiate between immersive and non-immersive VR. This categorization is determined mainly by the degree of ‘virtual presence’ the subject experienced during training, and this information was not made readily available in most of the studies reviewed.
Note: This review focuses on any type of therapy involving a virtual environment. For a specific review of commercial game systems used for physical rehabilitation (e.g. Sony Playstation EyeToy, Nintendo Wii), please see the Video Games module.
Authors*: Tatiana Ogourtsova, MSc OT
Editors: Annabel McDermott, OT; Annie Rochette PhD, OT
Expert reviewer: Mindy Levin PhD, PT (CURRENTLY UNDER REVISION)
Evidence reviewed as of before 09-08-2016