Balance is the foundation upon which all other motor skills are built. Indeed, many neurological diseases and injuries often present clinically with deficits in balance control. With recent advances in virtual reality (VR) hardware bringing low-cost headsets into the mainstream market, the question remains as to whether this technology could be used in a clinical context to assess balance. We compared the head tracking performance of a low-cost VR headset (Oculus Quest) with a gold standard motion tracking system (Qualisys). We then compared the recorded head sway with the center of pressure (COP) measures collected from a force platform in different stances and different visual field manipulations. Firstly, our analysis showed that there was an excellent correspondence between the two different head movement signals (ICCs > 0.99) with minimal differences in terms of accuracy (<5 mm error). Secondly, we found that head sway mapped onto COP measures more strongly when the participant adopted a Tandem stance during balance assessment. Finally, using the power of virtual reality to manipulate the visual input to the brain, we showed how the Oculus Quest can reliably detect changes in postural control as a result of different types of visual field manipulations. Given the high levels of accuracy of the motion tracking of the Oculus Quest headset, along with the strong relationship with the COP and ability to manipulate the visual field, the Oculus Quest makes an exciting alternative to traditional lab-based balance assessments.
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