MindMaze Uses VR To Help Paralyzed Patients, Moving Into Consumer Space With $100 Million Investment

In VR, immersion and presence are the result of, essentially, tricking your brain. But what if that same technology could "trick" your brain enough that it helped you recover from paralysis? A company called MindMaze has this very mission in mind, and it's expanding its work out into the consumer and business space.

MindMaze currently operates in the healthcare industry, and its products combine aspects of virtual reality, computer vision, neurosciences, AI and haptic feedback in a variety of patient treatments, but the company is going to license its technology to be sold to consumers and businesses.

And it has the funds to do so: The company, which calls itself the “world’s first end-to-end multisensory computing platform,” announced today that it has raised $100 million in its first funding round, leading to a valuation of over $1 billion dollars.

We had the chance to speak with the CEO of MindMaze, Tej Tadi, to learn more about the company and the technology fueling the investment excitement. With a billion-dollar valuation and ties to virtual reality technology, we were intrigued, to say the least.

Tadi told us that he has a background in electronic engineering, earned a master’s degree in VR and graphics, and then went on to study neuroscience. With this unique skillset, he was able to develop a number of tools that have been used in the medical field to help patients recover from paralysis caused by stroke or other brain damage. These tools also offer medical professionals measurable data about patient recovery.  

MindMaze currently manufactures a product that is designed to help stroke and brain injury patients regain control of paralyzed limbs. Tadi told us that this product uses motion capture sensors to track a patient moving their arm or hand. MindMaze uses a VR HMD to deliver a rendered version of their moving arm, but mirrored to the opposite hand. The idea is that the patient moves their able arm, but their brain is tricked into thinking that their paralyzed hand moved. Tadi said that this confuses the brain into disbelief, but it accepts that the motion is real because a real trigger to move an arm came from the brain. Tadi told us this process has been shown to accelerate recovery from paralysis onset by brain injuries. 

“If someone can’t move their hand but they see it happen on a virtual avatar, it helps trick the bran into believing that the hand can move, and it actually starts to accelerate recovery,” said Tej Tadi, CEO, MindMaze. “Just by watching his avatar move, though he cannot really physically move his hand, it triggers that recovery. It’s a very powerful trick. It’s interesting to see.”

This technology can, and is, also applied to amputees. Many people who have lost a limb suffer from phantom pain -- that is, they feel pain emanating from the missing appendage. Tadi told us that amputee patients report instant relief from phantom pains, and psychologically, they become unaware of their disability because they can no longer perceive the missing part when wearing the HMD. 

MindMaze has developed technologies for motion capture of fingers and full body movement, facial expression detection, haptic feedback, and 3D rendering. Tadi said that between 2010 and 2012, he realized that all of these components are fundamental pieces needed for full immersive VR, and shifted towards making a unified platform of all these different technologies.

MindMaze develops its own hardware and software, allowing the company to maintain control of its pipeline. Tadi told us the proprietary MindMaze platform needed to be able to “meet the very stringent needs for medical pieces” while remaining applicable to “gaming and other consumer media.”

Tadi said he took the company down the medical path because he saw a need there, but he noted that another reason is that because any medical tech proves itself by maintaining stringent certifications. “You’ve got to prove your tech beyond doubt and it makes sense to have your own hardware,” he said.

The next step for MindMaze is to move into other verticals beyond the medical sector, which it will do by licensing the technology platform to third parties that will sell products to businesses and consumers.

Tadi was not willing to go into specifics, but he said we will hear about the first consumer-facing product in the near future. He did say that future products will include facial tracking sensors that can detect fatigue. Tadi said the first example of this tech will be used in pilot and driver training software.

The $100 million first round investment into MindMaze will help the company bring its technology into other markets. We asked Tadi what his ultimate vision for MindMaze will be, and his response leads us to believe that $100 million is just the beginning. "It’s a lot like the 'Intel Inside' model. A lot of the human experiences are going to be powered by MindMaze," he said. 

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