Nokia and Armundia Group together with the Don Gnocchi Foundation for the “Helping Hands” project

“Helping Hands” is a project developed by Nokia, Armundia Group and the Don Gnocchi Foundation to enhance rehabilitation programs for multiple sclerosis patients through virtual reality.

Milan, 9 March 2023 – Don Gnocchi Foundation, Nokia and Armundia Group are behind the “Helping Hands” project dedicated to patients with multiple sclerosis currently undergoing treatment at IRCCS Centre “S. Maria Nascente” in Milan, managed by the foundation. The project was developed to enhance the impact of rehabilitation programs through virtual reality.

The main goal is to improve patient’s resilience, particularly by boosting their motivation to adhere to rehabilitation programs indications, and by instilling positive behavioural patterns related to physical activity, healthy eating and mental wellbeing. This is achieved also through video scenarios in virtual reality, where the patient can have an immersive experience in environments designed ad hoc for the ongoing rehabilitation program.

Since 2016 some patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, coming from different Italian regions and under treatment the IRCCS Centre of Milan of the Don Gnocchi Foundation, have been accompanied to the Maddalena archipelago by a qualified staff of doctors and nurses, to give them the opportunity to test themselves in an unfamiliar territory. The patients partook in sailing training in the waters of Sardinia, to learn more about their limits and assess their potential. This experience was integrated with healthy diet programs developed by a nutritionist biologist, and regular bespoke rehabilitation treatment, by the staff of the Don Gnocchi Foundation.

Patients can now relive their rehabilitation experience, even remotely, by wearing virtual reality headsets to access four immersive video scenarios about nutrition (“kitchen” setting), physical activity (“sailboat” setting), meditation and mental wellbeing (“mindfulness” setting) and physical rehabilitation (“beach” setting).

The “Helping Hands” project was supported by Nokia, which funded the purchase of the necessary hardware equipment, including a 3D camera that has been used to shoot the three-dimensional of the sessions in Sardinia. The remaining funds will go to physiotherapy and virtual reality sessions. In addition, Nokia staff edited the raw footage and created the video scenarios..

Armundia Group, a digital company specialised in the design and supply of highly innovative digital platforms, acted as consultant, provided technical assistance, including the VR headsets, to create, implement and make an easily accessible experience of the immersive virtual reality.

«The rules to follow for a correct lifestyle and diet regime to follow alongside prescribed pharmaceuticals are today based on scientific evidence – explains Laura Mendozzi, project supervisor and neurologist at the IRCCS Centre “S. Maria Nascente”, owned by the Don Gnocchi Foundation -. We will use virtual reality technology as scientists have confirmed not only their highly engaging element, but also stronger effectiveness compared to standard approaches in terms of clinical, motivational and psychological improvements”.

“For diseases that have greater impact such as multiple sclerosis, physical activity plays a key role in improving patients’ wellbeing, regardless of the severity of the disease – underlines Giuseppina Di Foggia, CEO and Vice President of Nokia Italia -. The innovative multidisciplinary rehabilitation model (Brief High Impact Preparatory Experience) that researchers from the Don Gnocchi Foundation have developed, provides for neuromotor rehabilitation, physical activity and awareness. The fruitful collaboration with the Don Gnocchi Foundation and Armundia Group encourages us to follow this direction, both with the technology and with our Nokia people who have enthusiastically committed themselves to the project. At Nokia Italia we are dedicated to tackling social issues related to inclusion, diversity and disability with important projects to attract talents. We want to provide our partners with the latest technologies to enable positive change for the people and the communities because, as the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella said, “we will defeat multiple sclerosis together”. Nokia Italia, together with the project partners, want to take up this challenge”.

«We are proud to collaborate with the Don Gnocchi Foundation and Nokia Italia by offering our technological expertise on devices and immersive reality experiences, to improve the care of patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. Indeed, virtual reality is proving to be a powerful and promising tool in healthcare, with the potential of improving diagnosis, treatment and patients’ quality of life. The Helping Hands project is a virtuous case in which we adopt tools and technologies for a wider vision of strategic innovation, that puts people at the core of the project thanks to an inclusive approach. The project helps them to face the disease peacefully and comfortably – declares Gianluca Berghella, Armundia Group’s CEO and President -. We know the added value that virtual technologies offer, to both experiential involvement and therapy, and we are adamant that by making the project accessible to patients remotely, while maintaining a very realistic immersive effect, we are rapidly and effectively extending the applications of the experimental approach, and thus making it even more sustainable».

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