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Kinesiology class includes virtual reality experience in studies

Jan 24, 2024 | Education and Human Sciences, Faculty/Staff, General News, Students

Virtual reality (VR) is advancing across various fields, and Rhonda Boyd, an instructor in the Department of Kinesiology, aims to broaden her students’ understanding of Kinesiology through immersive VR studies.

“I was fascinated by a webinar presentation by Patrick Olivo that incorporated VR goggles to help individuals with balance and orthopedic issues,” Boyd said. “The system can be used to test an individual as well as used in rehab with the ability for real-time adjustments.”

With the information she gathered, Boyd contacted Olivo, U.S. general director of Virtualis. Virtualis is a French-based company that was founded by physiotherapist Frank Assaban to incorporate the full potential of virtual reality in rehabilitation and health.

“Virtualis separates itself with its state-of-the-art virtual reality goggles that simulate a variety of scenarios that would require patients to master their balance and control their physical stance,” Boyd said. “At its core, Virtualis brings virtual reality into rehab for advanced results, and helps patients recovering from orthopedic, neurological, or cervical ailments with a range of tests that culminate into an all-in-one tool for comprehensive patient management.”

Olivo presented to Boyd’s class over Zoom in 2021 and connected her to Dr. Jerry Yarborough, founder of Fyzical Therapy & Balance Centers in Ruston which was the first Virtualis system in the U.S. and currently the only one in Louisiana. Yarborough graduated from Louisiana Tech University and was excited to support students in the area to help them achieve their educational goals. In the fall of 2022, Boyd’s class began attending in-person demonstrations to get a full experience of the system.

“VR is some of the most innovative equipment utilized to assist clients to focus on normal movement while having fun in a virtual environment,” Yarborough said. “In the field of kinesiology, VR allows the client to focus on normal movement during fun functional activities. We can use VR to help clients improve joint AROM, gross neuromuscular control, vestibular rehabilitation, and improve functional endurance, posture, and cognitive function.”

Aislinn Cobb, a junior in the Kinesiology department, said, “It was amazing to be able to participate in a simulation in which vestibular and proprioceptive simulations came to life. In the height and roller coaster simulation, I wore a headset that gave visual input to the experience while I was standing on top of a movement board that followed the motions of the experience. In the classroom, we learn many topics, but it is not an everyday experience in which we can see those things come to life.”

The Virtualis VR experience allows Kinesiology students to experience equipment they’ve never seen before and immerses them in the different possibilities available in their major.

“Our class collaboration with Fyzical Therapy & Balance Center shows students a patient’s perspective as well as helps them realize that there are so many cool things out there available to help patients,” Boyd said. “Students have been able to see firsthand how testing is done and view the programs to improve balance, motion sickness, and height issues. It is a truly incredible experience.”