*** Getting out and about with virtual reality ***

Back in the autumn months last year, I found myself curious about the virtual reality (VR) scene.

While down in the depths of this VR marketplace, I came across an interesting company, based in Oxfordshire, who use similar technologies.  In the first of a two-part article, we take a look at their innovative products to keep the aged active.

It’s fascinating stuff and I am in discussions with them about a demonstration day so let me know if you’d like to come along and have a play!

Motus is Latin for motion.  Motus VR is the company.  They develop VR immersive experiences.  These experiences provide three key therapeutic exercises focused on the emotional, cognitive, and physical dimensions of health and wellbeing.

Since 2021, the company’s products have been collaboratively developed in a groundbreaking UK initiative. This partnership involves Motus VR, Oxfordshire County Council, the Universities of Oxford and Plymouth, as well as care settings in Oxfordshire and Cornwall. Notably, these products are designed to operate seamlessly without the need for internet or Wi-Fi access.

Motus Relieve in action

These products have undergone refinement based on feedback from care staff, and they are specifically crafted for individuals dealing with frailty, dementia, or those who spend a significant amount of time in a chair, extending to those with full mobility. The aim is to assist everyone in relaxation, socialisation, and inadvertently encouraging physical activity.

Motus Relieve uses immersive 360 videos and natural sounds or music to create engaging environments that open new conversations and connections spanning all age groups and has enabled ‘amazing’ lucid conversations with people with advanced dementia. To use Motus Relieve one person wears the headset and a companion, visitor or care worker has a paired up tablet.  The tablet displays what the person wearing the headset is looking at.  They can look anywhere in the scene.  If it’s a forest scene they have chosen, they  could be looking at the forest floor, or branches on the trees, or the sky in the canopy above, or the forest wildlife they might notice in the video.

For instance, in a café street scene, countless conversation starters abound, ranging from the shoes of someone at the adjacent table to a passing sports car. These conversation triggers prove especially beneficial in care settings where the comforting routine can become draining. It’s not uncommon for relatives to find themselves at a conversational standstill after covering weather, wellness, and food topics.

Moreover, the tool transcends the conventional role of care staff as attendants to physical needs. Motus Relieve becomes a catalyst for building deeper connections between care staff and residents. By fostering meaningful interactions and introducing fresh perspectives, it plays a pivotal role in redefining the caregiver-resident dynamic, emphasising the importance of personal connections beyond mere physical care.

Motus Relieve has proven effective in alleviating anxiety and providing a distraction from the discomfort associated with oncology treatments. Currently, it is being utilised at Truro Hospital to address these specific needs and is the subject of a wonderfully positive published Dec’23 with results showing overall improvement in wellbeing scores of 51%.

Knowing the value of personalised care, Motus VR has enabled Relieve owners to add their own videos and music, so family gatherings, holidays and special events can be shared and enjoyed across generations, connecting family members unable to be present.

Motus Explore takes a significant leap forward by offering virtual seated social VR walks designed for individuals in care settings who are unable to walk independently. This innovative approach enables them to virtually experience walking alongside others in diverse environments, such as a village stroll in the mountains,  a location in the mid-west USA or perhaps the Great Wall of China. This not only broadens their horizons but also provides opportunities for a sense of independence.

Motus Explore in action

Additionally, Motus Explore serves as a crucial connection for friends and relatives who are physically distant. Even if unable to visit in person, they can partake in a virtual walk with their loved ones in care, bridging the geographical gap and fostering meaningful connections.

Again, a person wears the goggles and a companion uses a tablet  or a laptop .  The difference with Motus Explore is the walking pad.  The immersed person wears what looks like a pair of Crocs and walks on a comfortable pad underfoot but whilst still seated.  So they are walking in VR but are still sitting down.  The exercise is still there, though!  Research shows Motus Explore ‘walking’ exercises all major leg muscles and the exercise level is about 10bpm heartrate less than ambulation walking.

The genesis of Motus Explore emerged in response to a request from care managers and dedicated care staff. Their motivation was to introduce a tool that encourages gentle and secure exercise while simultaneously presenting new opportunities and choices for individuals whose worlds may have diminished due to the challenges of frailty and disability.

The overarching goal was to provide a platform that not only supports physical well-being but also acts as a catalyst for a broader, more enriching life experience. Care managers and staff envisioned a solution that could counteract the limitations imposed by frailty and disability, allowing individuals to engage in activities that foster a sense of independence and empowerment.

Motus Explore stands as a testament to the commitment of care professionals to enhance the quality of life for those under their care. By expanding the horizons of individuals through safe and gentle exercise, this innovative tool becomes a means of revitalising and invigorating their daily lives, offering a pathway to newfound opportunities and a sense of autonomy.

Whilst enjoying the scenery, and conversation with others walking alongside, Motus Explore enables leg movement and maintains and increases strength of both quadriceps and calf muscles. Motus Explore was developed with physiotherapist guidance and provides gentle exercise to all muscles of the lower limb. It also provides the opportunity for emotional and cognitive activity which many care providers underestimate in the mental benefits of exercise.

With Motus Adventure we come full circle to my earlier search.  Motus Adventure provides a social VR experience of walking and chatting with others in VR scenes of real places.  Motus Adventure includes a fully mobile Omni-directional treadmill.

The treadmill works so well as a solution because of the unique design of the technology, because the surface does not move as it does in a conventional treadmill, and because there is a support rail all around the person who is walking.

The importance of VR continues to grow as technology advances and more industries recognise its potential to enhance various aspects of human life. While it may not be essential for everyone, its impact is significant in specific domains, contributing to improved experiences, efficiency, and innovation.  Motus VR are leading the way – merging healthcare insights with virtual reality experiences.

Website: www.motusvr.com

Contact: enquiries@motusvr.com