– I have to pick up the ax there and throw it at those balls, says Mikal Knapskog.
The 13-year-old is standing on a treadmill wearing virtual reality glasses, sensors on his feet and a controller in his right hand.
In a few days, Michal will be 14, but his birthday didn’t have to be until August.
Now he is trying an entirely new research aimed specifically at young people like himself.
Virtual reality glasses are a gateway to a gaming world designed specifically for children and young adults who were born long before.
Many of these children struggle physically, mentally, or socially.
Researchers at University College Vestland want to prevent this with the help of physical activity and problem solving.
This has never happened before in Norway.
This is exciting and a warm welcome, says researcher and chief medical officer Maria Follsuter of the Children’s Clinic at University Hospital Hauckland.
Born at week 25
A normal pregnancy lasts for about 40 weeks. Babies born before 28 weeks of gestation are defined as very premature.
Each year, around 200 babies are born very prematurely in Norway. Between 20 and 30 of them are in Bergen. Figures show that babies born as early as 22 weeks can survive, but the death rate is high FNorwegian Institute of Public Health.
Michal was only in his mother’s womb until the twenty-fifth week, then four months in the hospital.
However, things have gone well with the 13-year-old Many are not so lucky.
Babies into the world are born before the organ system is complete, and it has immediate and long-term consequences, explains Bergen pediatrician Vollsaetter.
She has spent much of her working life researching this vulnerable group of patients:
Some are in good condition, but many have physical, mental and social difficulties. When these children reach adulthood, we see that more than the children born shortly afterwards fall out of working life, become handicapped, Having a chronic illness or struggling in other ways.
Balance and skills
In the fitness room at University College Vestland, Michal takes charge of the treadmill and jumps into the air while moving his right arm forward.
In VR Walk, he throws an ax at some balls that are floating in the air.
– I’m trying to take it there, says Michal and points with control.
While the 13-year-old focuses on swinging an axe, lead researcher Lars Peter Vachel Bovim can see how he has good balance and coordination.
When Mikal masters the courses, the difficulty increases.
– We can do exercises in virtual reality that do not necessarily happen in reality, It can be beneficial mentally, physically, and socially, says Povim.
It took four years to develop the game.
Minister of State Ole Henrik Kratt Björkholt (PT) at the Ministry of Health and Welfare Services has a positive view of the project, but stresses that professionals must assess the quality.
– Overall, we believe there is great potential to use new health and wellbeing technology for the patient’s interests, he wrote in an email.
From incubator to treadmill
A few hundred meters from the university college, pediatrician Vollsæter NRK displays in the neonatal intensive care unit in Bergen. Where there is an entirely new pair of twins in their respective incubators.
Weight: 1000 grams.
Almost 14 years ago, it was Michal who lay here where life begins so early.
The little ones have a proboscis in their nose that helps them breathe and are well wrapped in warm blankets.
Researchers know a lot about what can happen with severe prematurity when they are young, but little about the range of challenges they can face after the age of five.
From the age of six, only children with very serious problems are followed up by a specialized health service.
Vollsæter says the positive side effect of the university college research project is specifically a contribution to mapping on a larger scale.
Before you can prevent, you need to know exactly what to prevent, and thus it’s important to identify children on several levels and at several ages to see how they do as they get older, she says.
The research community in Bergen wants to realize similar projects. In addition, further follow-up from a specialized health service is desirable.
We spend a lot of resources on these kids early in life, and we probably need to spend more resources on them later as well.
– very fun
Bovim stops the treadmill and Michal takes off his VR glasses. It takes a few seconds before his eyes get used to the real world again.
It was strange, says Michal, smiling broadly and eyebrows raised.
The first session of VR Walk is over for this time and the research leader is impressed.
– Now you have very good control. Next time we do some repetitions and then increase the speed a little bit.
– Yes, Michal answers and smiles.
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