Virtual Reality has moved way beyond entertainment and gaming and is now serving as a powerful tool in the health industry. Working in sync with Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality is now being used to improve brain function and enhance cognitive abilities.
Tej Tadi, an Indian research scholar at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland came up with the idea to merge Virtual Reality and electrical neuroimaging while working on his PhD thesis.
The idea became the foundation of the Company called Mindmaze, of which he is now the CEO. Mindmaze is working on the convergence of VR, AI and neural imaging to help patients rehabilitate from tragic incidents which may have resulted in declined brain function.
“MindMaze wants to become the (top) neuro-medical device company in the world. Our big vision, is five years from now every device should have a MindMaze chip in it. The chip computes the world like your brain does – more intuitively. You think of something and that would happen through the software.”
– Tej Tadi, CEO and Co-Founder of MindMaze
The company’s prime product MindMotion is now used across hundreds of hospitals in Europe. MindMotion is a high-tech device that simulates realistic scenes and environments for patients and uses motion sensors to map the patients’ movement on to an Avatar. It uses EEG (electroencephalogram) signals to keep track of the patient’s recovery and learns from the data provided using AI to create new and better environments to improve the recovery process. The VR environment can help retrain the patient’s brain to regain motor function. The system provides post-session analysis to track each patient’s performance and progress over time.
MindMotion PRO, a more handy version of its predecessor is a product that is deployed at university hospitals across Europe. It is a mobile platform using 3D virtual environments that treat motor impairments related to stroke and other neurological disorders and aims to allow patients to reach their full recovery potential. It is CE-marked and was approved by the FDA in April 2017.
In 2016, Mindmaze completed its first round of funding, raising $100 Million. Forbes reported that the company had been valued at $1 Billion (Billion dollar startups are called Unicorns), making it the second highest funded start-up in the world. Its closest competitor at no. 1 is an Augmented Reality (AR) driven company called MagicLeap, valued at $1.4 Billion.
Hollywood actor Leonardo Dicaprio and UK’s energy and retail giant, The Hinduja Group are amongst the prime investors in the company. A number of other high-profile investors have chosen to remain anonymous.
“As the Hinduja Group is looking to invest in new frontier technologies as part of its global growth and expansion plan, it has found it beneficial to combine its own inherent strengths with technology pioneers who have created ventures with a futuristic vision”
– Hinduja Group Spokesperson
The technology package is expensive for hospitals: It costs $80,000 to purchase or a minimum payment of $2,500 a month to rent. The convergence of VR and AI is also being used by several organisations to tackle a number of mental health issues such as dementia and PTSD.
As the technology evolves it can help improve our understanding of the Brain. New frontiers are being forged with VR and AI leading the charge.