A virtual reality (VR) game user interface helped Cotras Co. Ltd. win FDA clearance faster than usual for Mobilise, a degenerative knee arthritis rehabilitation medical device. Cotras is a collaboration of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), Korea Institute of Science and Technology, and Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUH).

According to a UNIST news release, an estimated 37.3% of Korean people over 50 years and 38.1% of people 65 and over have arthritis or joint pain. Millions of patients have had joint replacements (9.4 million as of 2018), and approximately 15% of South Korea’s 65-or-older population have sarcopenia. This rapidly growing number of patients have lower extremity problems that limit or fully curtail walking, which can further threaten their health as well as their independence. The Mobilise medical device, now with FDA approval for marketing in the U.S., is designed to help with rehab for patients with degenerative knee arthritis, one of the most debilitating joint problems.

Unlike most workout machines you’ll see in gyms or physical therapy offices, Mobilise does not focus solely on increasing muscle strength. Patients control the Mobilise device with a VR-game-like user interface that assesses their motor function and balance. Integrated moment biofeedback sensors adjust the machine’s resistance to match the patient’s needs. The Mobilise device helps patients get stronger using eccentric muscle contraction, audiovisual muscle power training, lower extremity pivoting, and real-time knee internal moment biofeedback.

VR and gamification to help seniors with bad knees. This technology may not be wearable, but it sounds like a winning combination.