NWO grant for research into deployment of virtual reality in visual rehabilitation at home

NWO has awarded a €2,7 million grant to a partnership between the UMCG, Royal Visio and several other healthcare providers and academic institutions. The aim is to develop care for people with visual complaints after a stroke. What makes this care special is that it can be provided at home using Virtual Reality (VR).

About half of people who have had a stroke experience half-sided blindness, also known as hemianopsia. This form of blindness occurs because a part of the brain is damaged that is responsible for visual perception. Both eyes are then blind on either the left or right side. Half-sided blindness can cause significant limitations in various activities, such as traffic participation, reading, work, shopping and watching TV. Besides psychological and emotional consequences, it also affects overall health and participation in social life. Visio has long offered rehabilitation for people with this form of low vision and is now playing a key role in developing VR care in the home situation.

Rehabilitation at home at your own pace with VR

The VR4eVR partnership (pronounced VR forever) combines expertise in VR technology, brain research, visual rehabilitation and serious gaming, among others. The virtual reality home training allows people to rehabilitate in their own environment, at their own pace. The aim is to give around 1,000 people each year greater control over their own recovery and rehabilitation process in this way. This will also relieve pressure on care and remove barriers to rehabilitation.

More involvement environment for visual impairment

Another important aim of the study is for family, colleagues and professionals around the person with partial blindness to be more involved in the rehabilitation and understand their visual impairment. This should contribute to greater awareness and understanding, making social and professional participation more natural.

Role of Royal Visio

Royal Visio is making a major contribution to this research with the deployment of its knowledge and expertise in rehabilitation. Developing a VR home viewing training programme is fully in line with Visio's vision and strategy to keep care accessible and affordable in the future: independent and at home if possible, on-site and specialist if necessary. Several Visio sites serve as living labs in which the new care is developed, researched and applied in the care offer.

About this research

This research and innovation project will last six years. The VR4eVR consortium is led by Frans Cornelissen, professor of visual neuroscience at the UMCG. Other partners in the consortium include the University of Groningen, Donders Institute Nijmegen, Tilburg University, Utrecht University, Hanze University and Royal Visio. In addition to the grant from NWO, the VR4eVR project receives financial support from Visio Foundation.