Tampa students develop virtual reality games to increase physical therapy's effectiveness

Anyone who's gone through physical therapy knows it can be an arduous and time-consuming process, but what if physical therapy was more like playing a really fun video game? 

Some students at the University of Tampa are changing the game for injury recovery, using virtual reality to ease the mental burden of rehabilitation.

Student Jonathan Truong is part of the team of UT students developing PT VR. As a child, he contracted meningitis and, as a complication of the disease, suffered a stroke.

Since then, he's gone through eight rounds of physical therapy. His history of pain and rehab is the driving force behind his desire to improve the field.

"It's aggravating," Truong said. "Physical therapy is boring. It's very repetitive for me."

The University of Tampa senior is majoring in entrepreneurship, meanwhile, keeping an eye on advancements in virtual reality. 

So he launched Verapy. It allows patients to do physical therapy using a virtual reality headset connected to sensors on a patient's hands and feet.

"We are allowing these patients to feel empowered," he said. "They are doing their physical therapy without thinking about it."

But the game isn't just a game. Verapy games sent data that can help physical therapists understand a patient's improvement, both for pain level and range of motion.

"The therapist doesn't have to watch them constantly," he said. "So it saves them time."

There are a number of games that allow for work on different body parts. It's still in beta testing in three physical therapist's offices in the Bay Area.

A problem doctors and therapists face is patients quitting before they are fully rehabilitated. They hope Verapy will help them keep more patients.

It's music to Jonathan's ears, after what he's been through.

"It [makes] me feel great," he said, adding that Verapy has gotten 16 letters of intent from local therapists to test the product.