Abstract

Virtual reality is three dimensional, interactive and fun way in rehabilitation. Its first known use in rehabilitation published by Max North named as “Virtual Environments and Psychological Disorders” (1994). Virtual reality uses special programmed computers, visual devices and artificial environments for the clients’ rehabilitation. Throughout technological improvements, virtual reality devices changed from therapeutic gloves to augmented reality environments. Virtual reality was being used in different rehabilitation professions such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychology and so on. In spite of common virtual reality approach of different professions, each profession aims different outcomes in rehabilitation. Virtual reality in occupational therapy generally focuses on hand and upper extremity functioning, cognitive rehabilitation, mental disorders, etc. Positive effects of virtual reality were mentioned in different studies, which are higher motivation than non‐simulated environments, active participation of the participants, supporting motor learning, fun environment and risk‐free environment. Additionally, virtual reality was told to be used as assessment. This chapter will focus on usage of virtual reality in occupational therapy, history and recent developments, types of virtual reality technologic equipment, pros and cons, usage for pediatric, adult and geriatric people and recent research and articles.

1. Introduction

Enhancement of functional ability and the realization of greater participation in community life are the two major goals of rehabilitation science. Improving sensory, motor, cognitive functions and practice in everyday activities and occupations to increase participation with intensive rehabilitation may define these predefined goals [1, 2]. Intervention is based primarily on the different types of purposeful activities and occupations with active participation [35]. For many injuries and disabilities, the rehabilitation process is long, and clinicians face the challenge of identifying a variety of appealing, meaningful and motivating intervention tasks that may be adapted and graded to facilitate this process [5].

Occupational therapy (OT), which is one of the rehabilitation professions, is a client‐centered profession that helps people who are suffering participation and occupational performance limitations. OT offers a wide range of rehabilitation strategies in different medical and social diagnosis [2]. The common point of all these strategies in rehabilitation is that OT assesses and supports enhancing functional ability and participation throughout participating in meaningful activities in a person’s lifespan. To enhance participation, OT, like the rest of the health professions, uses World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) to understand function in a biopsychosocial manner. In ICF framework, function is defined as the interactions between an individual, their health conditions and the social and personal situations in which they thrive. The complex interactions between these variables define function and disability [1].

ICF classifies health and health‐related fields in two groups. These groups are “body functions” and “body structures” and “activity and participation.” Sub heading of these groups is considered as body function and structures (physical, physiological etc), activities (daily tasks) and participation (life roles) [1]. When these groups taken into account in rehabilitation, occupational therapists focus on all areas to enhance a client’s activity participation, social participation, etc. However, in current literature, there are various rehabilitation approaches that are being used for this aim. Advancements in technology in the twenty‐first century create great opportunities for people working in different areas. In particular, in health practices like rehabilitation, technology supports therapists’ to rehabilitate their clients in too many different ways like robotics, stimulation devices, assessment tools and virtual reality [610].