Christchurch-based MTech Games is carrying out trials in partnership with the Burwood Academy for Independent Living to help patients learn wheelchair skills using computer simulation.
MTech was set up by Margaret Pickering and Brook Waters to explore possibilities for virtual reality in medical practice.
The company buys services provided by video games company team, Stickmen Media, which they also founded.
An earlier pilot study with six people with tetraplegia found the virtual experience helpful at reproducing the experience of operating a powered wheelchair.
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Waters said while people in rehabilitation tried diligently follow exercise instructions, virtual reality games often gave them more motivation to continue longer.
“The secret is improving engagement. We can also make the experience more diagnostic so the clinicians can measure how well people re performing,” Waters said.
In 2015 Waters and Pickering negotiated an agreement with we partnered with Burwood Academy and government seed funding organisation Callaghan Innovation to create the equivalent of a flight simulator for “wheelchair pilots”.
The simulator enables new users to practice wheelchair skills and rehearse difficult tasks like getting on a bus.
Because they are using virtual reality computers, the wheelchair patients can practice in a safe environment until they are ready for the real thing.
Virtual reality has potential many medical, scientific, tourism and educational communities, military, gamers and consumers, Waters said.
MTech has also formed relationships with partners in the US and Australia and expect to finalise some new developments soon as a result.
About 10 MTech and Stickmen staff is based in the Epic innovation centre in Christchurch nd additional contractors are used when required.
“Our primary goal is to export the technology and ultimately that would involve our partners in the US and the National Health Service in the UK,” Waters said.
Waters has a background as a software developer with 22 years experience, specialising in video game development. He has co-authored several papers on intelligent systems.
Pickering has graphic design training with 14 years in the web industry, in design, development and client management and has co-founded web design company Oryx Technologies, as well as Stickmen Media and MTech Games.
She established the production team at Desolate Spectre Studios and project-managed the production and release of their first game Zombeeze, and later Zombeeze VR, which well known to gamers.
She is project managing the pitch, music and teaser trailers for a very large 3D game The Toymaker, drawing on her musical background, which includes leading a rock band and writing signs.
MTech is a finalist in the Champion Canterbury awards which will be decided on October 4.