In honor of this month’s rehab innovation theme, we’re featuring several new products and companies that are bridging the therapy and technology gap. These innovators are using technology to improve patient outcomes and experiences in therapy, and to us, it doesn’t get much better than that. First up on our list: IKKOS.
We were lucky enough to exchange emails with IKKOS team member and former world-champion swimmer Randall Bal. Here’s what we learned:
Why and how did IKKOS come to be?
IKKOS inventor and Olympic Coach Sean Hutchison was coaching world-class athletes when the principles of physics made him realize that the top athletes in the world are the best because of how they move. After that epiphany, Hutchison set out to learn how to teach people to move better. To do so, he studied brain science and neuroplasticity in stroke patients. He then “cross-referenced that knowledge with other domains, like visualization, virtual reality, and biomechanics.”
Then one day, Hutchison had a true “inventor’s light bulb moment.” After two years of refining IKKOS with top-tier athletes, Hutchison launched his company with a mission of not only empowering everyone to move better, but also fundamentally changing “the way the world learns movement.”
What problem does IKKOS solve?
“IKKOS enhances movement learning for able-bodied people and those with mobility deficits,” says Bal. It was developed with some of the top athletes in the world, and many of the brain science contributions came from stroke rehabilitation studies. Because IKKOS works on a neural level, “it is fairly ubiquitous.”
How are people using IKKOS?
Individuals can use IKKOS in the clinic and at home. In the clinic, the team uses head-mounted display (HMD) video glasses—which provide two video inputs and audio—to enhance users’ movement learning. Currently, IKKOS is developing an application that will allow people to continue that learning process, as prescribed by their clinician, at home. Using this app, patients can verify that they’re doing the exercises correctly, using proper techniques, and improving. According to Bal, this can greatly improve home exercise program compliance, and “in-clinic supervised learning combined with at-home use is a very powerful…combination.”
How will IKKOS change the nature of sports and health care?
“IKKOS taps into the brain’s ability to copy [or mimic],” says Bal. As a result, users “learn movement very well.” Bal and the IKKOS team have observed significant improvement—as compared to other learning models—in users with a wide variety of experiential backgrounds. With IKKOS, “we have helped some of the best athletes in the world get even better,” says Bal. “If people at such a high athletic level, [with minimal] movement errors, can improve consistently, imagine what IKKOS can do for the rest of us folks who have plenty of things to fix and rehabilitate.”
Specifically, how does IKKOS facilitate improved muscle movement?
“When someone thinks about doing a physical movement—running for example—his or her nervous system fires as if he or she is actually running,” says Bal. Unless you have perfect technique, however, thinking about—or even doing—that physical movement causes your nervous system to fire “in a less than optimal way.” So, IKKOS created an audiovisual combination—which “focuses the brain and introduces the correct movement”—that can actually train an individual’s nervous system to fire optimally regardless of his or her previous, less-than-perfect technique. “This audiovisual exposure, along with corresponding physical steps, is the IKKOS system of learning,” says Bal.
In what ways can a clinician customize or control the patient’s IKKOS experience?
Like any other learning tool, IKKOS works best under the supervision of a qualified professional. The better the coach or the clinician, the better the results. Bal and the IKKOS team have “seen many instances of creative IKKOS use.” Enterprise clients can access the IKKOS web portal, which means they can create and upload any additional movements or exercises they wish to include in their learning library. This curated content becomes available relatively quickly after upload, so clients can easily customize or adjust the standard teachings. According to Bal, it’s the right mix of creative freedom and proven effectiveness.
In what other ways might a therapist incorporate IKKOS in the clinic?
In addition to home exercise programs, many therapists are starting to offer programs for sport health and improvement. “Although therapists have an incredible understanding of how the body works, they may not be specific sport experts,” says Bal. “Shoot, it’s impossible to be an expert in every sport.” That’s where IKKOS comes in: Bal says IKKOS “offers the opportunity for high-quality, specific-sport teaching without needing an expert coach on staff. At the very least, IKKOS can be a great communication tool.” This way, “everyone involved—the coach, athlete, and therapist—knows the desired movement outcome.”
What do the IKKOS packages contain?
“The HMD content packages contain IKKOS HMD, IKKOS-specific content loaded onto the HMD (they come ready-to-use), IKKOS goggles, and instructions,” says Bal. To generate more content, the team has already signed several high-level athletes and they’re in the process of signing more “as interest and strategy dictate.” Bal and the IKKOS team are currently working with a couple of PT groups. “There is much work to be done in this area,” and the team is “continuing to grow” in their understanding of rehabilitative therapy.
Check out IKKOS first-hand here, and stay tuned to the WebPT blog to find out what other innovative products and companies made our list. Know of a product or company that we’ve missed? We’d love to hear about it. Leave us a message in the comments below.
P.S. These blogs posts are purely features of products, technologies, or services that we think are innovative. We are in no way reviewing or endorsing anything we feature.