Egypt’s VRapeutic is using virtual reality to tackle learning difficulties

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Egyptian startup VRapeutic is using virtual reality (VR) technology to help treat learning difficulties and developmental disorders, and plans on taking its solution worldwide in the next 18 months.

Launched in 2017 by Ahmad Al-Kabbany, who researched VR for his PhD in electrical engineering, VRapeutic designs 3D virtual environments that are especially tailored to instill diverse life skills in children, including social, cognitive, motor, and academic skills. 

The startup delivers VR software modules, installed on VR headsets, to therapy centres, with a child then watching particular modules dependent on the therapy plan set by the therapist. VRapeutic offers unique cloud accounts for every doctor and child, where the performance data and the request modules for every child can be accessed. 

Al-Kabbany told Disrupt Africa he launched VRapeutic in a bid to cut down on the costs and inefficiencies inherent in traditional approaches to dealing with learning disabilities and developmental disorders such as dyslexia, autism, and cerebral palsy.

“We develop our own curricula for essential life skills, featuring unique technical features, customisability, and a design centered around widely-adopted assessment tools,” he said.

“We are pioneering the integration between virtual environments, bio-sensors, and machine intelligence to enrich the interactions inside the environments.”

The startup, which has a B2B business model that sees it licence its software modules to therapy centres, clinics, and hospitals, is currently operating in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and has generated US$30,000 in revenues in the last nine months.

VRapeutic’s founder considers this to have been slow progress, however.

“We have had a research-oriented approach, in which every product is developed and validated under the supervision of renowned professionals. Hence, we know that the first stage has been time demanding, before we can scale up sales, which establishes our long-term scientific credibility,” Al-Kabbany said.

Now, the job of scaling begins. VRapeutic plans to expand to 300 centres in five countries over the next 18 months, with a pre-existing network of account managers in three Canadian cities. To do this, the startup is looking for investment, having thus far only taken on board funds from Flat6Labs Cairo after joining its accelerator programme earlier this year.

“We are looking for investment, to be dedicated to expand the team, and manage the daily operations and marketing campaigns,” said Al-Kabbany.

The road so far has been a long one, but he said every difficulty has had a positive impact on the product VRapeutic is now ready to scale internationally. 

“We have faced a challenge in infrastructure, particularly, the quality of the internet in our entry markets. But this has forced us to develop our own offline solution, all developed in-house. We have also faced the challenge of talent hunting in our entry markets, but this was a reason for us to adopt more flexible hiring strategies, by being more geographically diverse. This has brought us talents that we would not have met otherwise,” Al-Kabbany said. 

“The awareness, about VR technology and its applications, has been a challenge, even in the medical field. Nevertheless, this resulted in the development of more conscious marketing strategies that addresses varying awareness levels, and targets parents as well as physicians and therapists.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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