MELBOURNE NEWS

Economy

Virtual reality startup empowers people with limb loss 

22 May 2023

A promising Melbourne startup is using virtual reality to improve outcomes for people with limb loss in the critical time while they wait for a prosthesis.

We’re supporting Virtetic on its journey from prototype to global impact through our Invest Melbourne team, providing industry connections and guidance towards funding and growth.

Ricardo Garcia-Rosas, Raphael Mayer and Jing Mu each explored different aspects of the prosthetics field during their PhD studies. During this time, they came to understand the challenges people with limb loss face in their daily lives.

“Earlier in my career I worked in research and development for a large prosthetic manufacturing company and found it interesting and extremely rewarding,” Raphael said.

“I found excitement in developing prosthetics, testing them, bringing them to life and – at the crux of it – how technology could practically improve someone’s life.”

However, while people wait for a prosthesis to be manufactured, there is a critical time when they might “unlearn” movements and lose muscle control, even with regular access to allied health services.

Raphael, Ricardo and Jing knew that virtual reality was a powerful training tool for experiences you can’t simulate in real life, such as firefighting and emergency rescues. They also saw its potential in the field of digital therapeutics.

Captivated by these possibilities, and driven by an innate desire to help people, the trio came together with other bright young minds to found Virtetic and develop a virtual reality system to support rehabilitation after limb loss.

Developed in close consultation with people with lived experience, the modules engage users in virtual activities like paintball and cooking.

These fun and immersive experiences intend to help preserve muscle tone and motion that may support the user to control their prosthesis more effectively. The system can also provide valuable data to clinicians.

A user immersed in Virtetic’s digital world

“Our game-based virtual reality solution is designed to support people during a difficult time and hopefully ease them back into their daily lives in a practical but meaningful way,” Raphael said.

“Seeing users’ excitement and glee when they are immersed in the virtual world, forgetting about reality for a second, brings immense joy to me,” Ricardo said.

A little help from expert advisers

Invest Melbourne is supporting Virtetic with introductions to international networks and support with funding applications.

“We’re a small team, so we can’t do everything. Having support from organisations like Invest Melbourne is what accelerates our journey as a start-up,” Raphael said.

“There is plenty of government support that we can access, but the help we’ve received from Invest Melbourne to navigate this has been fantastic. The team has been on a mission to help us, and we can’t thank them enough.

“Invest Melbourne has opened up several opportunities for us and we are seeing the fruits of this already. Having support like this, from people who care about and promote what you do, helps us a lot and makes all the difference.”

What’s next for Virtetic

Virtetic will soon begin working with the Royal Melbourne and Alfred hospitals to further validate and implement its product. Looking further into the future, the team has big goals, including expansion into large international prosthetic markets.

“We would love to see Virtetic become the standard-of-care for prosthesis use in training and rehabilitation practices,” Raphael said.

“We’d like everyone with limb loss to have access to our virtual reality interventions, and ultimately we’d love to see more and more people using robotic prostheses that more closely mimic human hands, arms and legs.”

While growing a startup takes a lot of hard work, the Virtetic team members remain driven by their innate desire to give back to society.

“The fact that we are able to turn a daunting experience into one that is more approachable and accessible is what gets me through the ups and downs,” Ricardo said.

“Our goal is to empower the prosthetics community through virtual reality – whether it be from the comfort of their home or their neighbourhood clinic, we want to be able to ease their transition, one screen at a time.”

Five top tips for startups

Do you have a business idea that could transform lives? We asked Richardo and Raphael from Virtetic to share their top tips for changemaking entrepreneurs. Here’s what they said:

  1. Get feedback as early as you can, and throughout your journey. There’s nothing more important than getting feedback from the people that will use your products.
  2. Investigate the key questions like: “Will people use and pay for this?” and “Is it practical for them?”.
  3. Expect your first version not to have all the bells and whistles. This is completely okay.
  4. Find some early adopters or people who are passionate about the problem you are solving. This can make a massive difference to your speed and ideation, and help turn your “napkin idea” into a reality.
  5. Keep the solution as simple as possible. This is especially important for newer technology like virtual reality, which has not yet reached mass adoption.

Get support to grow your business

Experts from the City of Melbourne can help you unlock your business potential and join the many innovative and successful companies investing locally.

We have recently expanded our team with new TradeStart advisers who help small and medium-sized businesses identify and secure opportunities in global markets, in partnership with Austrade.

To learn more, visit Invest Melbourne.

Interested in the Asian market?

Learn how to launch and grow your tech business in the Asian market through the next round of our Nexus startup program in July and August.

This year’s theme will be: Smart Solutions for Zero Carbon Cities. Virtetic won the Nexus Digital Economy Competition last year, and you could be the next success story.

We deliver Nexus in partnership with the City of Nanjing’s Pukou High Tech Zone and the Australia-China Association of Scientists and Entrepreneurs, with support from the State Government of Victoria.

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