Virtual reality (VR) is being put to the test by people with spinal cord injuries as part of a project by researchers at Curtin University’s School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work, and Speech Pathology.

Interactive, home-based VR simulation or ‘serious game’ is being used to improve upper limb function. The VR program uses cooking a virtual steak as a functional rehabilitation activity for people with cervical spinal cord injuries.

Lead researcher A/Professor Marina Ciccarelli said virtual tasks included seasoning, frying, flipping and transferring a steak from pan to plate, which when done repetitively over time helped improve the participant’s control and range of upper limb movements. Daily progress in the VR game could be remotely measured and reviewed by their therapist, and the level of challenge adjusted as needed. SpinalCure Australia, the Minderoo Foundation and Applecross Rotary supported the project by helping fund the purchase of the VR headsets.

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