Virtual reality dawns for the differently abled | india | Hindustan Times
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Virtual reality dawns for the differently abled

india Updated: Dec 21, 2006 13:39 IST

On most days, a tumour on Zvulun Muola's spinal cord keeps him confined to a wheelchair, but today he is standing on a small, wooden dinghy gliding downstream, navigating between the islands of a tropical paradise.

Muola, whose legs are partially paralysed, is among a handful of disabled patients in Israel using the Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment.

The virtual-reality system puts patients at the helm of a life-size video game, forces them to use atrophied muscles and teaches the basic skills necessary to recover from severe injuries and disorders.

"It gives more confidence," said Muola, standing shakily on a moving platform, sandwiched between a walker and a physical therapist. "It's hard at the beginning but once you get the hang of it, it improves stability and helps the patient trust himself."

The $650,000 computer system at the Chaim Sheba Rehabilitation Hospital near Tel Aviv is the only one of only a dozen worldwide in clinical use. The others are still in the research phase.

But doctors using the system say it can cut rehabilitation times and make the process far easier by helping distract patients from their pain.