We asked Steffen Preuß, CEO & Founder icho systems GmbH
Building communication, strengthening skills, and responding to individual needs – that is the goal of icho systems GmbH. To realize their vision, the team has developed the ichó therapy ball. It brings therapeutic measures and individual support to people's homes and can be used to promote cognition and motor activity.
icho systems GmbH wants to significantly improve the quality of life for everyone. That is why the company started looking for solutions and developed the ichó therapy ball.
Mr. Preuß, the ichó therapy ball helps people with neurological disorders. To what extent can it support and encourage those affected?
Steffen Preuß: ichó is designed to bring therapeutic measures into people's homes. With neurological diseases – whether it's a stroke or dementia – an individual therapy plan is important for stabilizing or building up abilities. Unfortunately, access to occupational therapy and neuropsychology is becoming increasingly difficult as we face a growing need and simultaneous shortage of specialists.
The ichó therapy ball is intended to remedy this situation and support patients when they are no longer in the practice. For this purpose, the therapy ball provides over 100 different support games that have been developed specially to promote cognition and motor activity. Ideally, the therapist supervises and guides the training plan; patients can train independently at home with ichó through easy-to-understand training plans and exercises and do so in a varied and fun way.
The intelligent sensor system of the ball allows ichó to recognize what is being done with it: Depending on the active support game, ichó reacts with colored light, vibration, sound and music. This combination is used to develop applications from brain performance training, sensorimotor-perceptive and motor-functional treatment. All applications can be installed individually and alternately on the ball like apps.
What advantages does the smart therapy ball offer over conventional therapy methods?
Steffen Preuß: ichó must be seen as a complementary system in the therapy context. In this context, ichó combines the strengths of the analog and digital worlds in such a way that established therapy methods become accessible to patients at home. These often do not have an extensive material cupboard with training devices or support objects. Likewise, the exercise presented in the practice may be performed incorrectly at home and thus not achieve the desired training effect.
ichó was designed exactly for this case: A material cabinet is not necessary, because the ball itself can be used in so many ways. The individual exercise instructions provide patients with precise instructions on how to perform the exercises. The therapists discuss the individual exercises together with the patients and determine a training program for home use.
Another advantage is ichó's data collection, which is already being used in some pilot projects and provides better insight into the therapy process: The ichó therapy ball passively records important data for use, such as reaction times, execution of movement, tremors or frequency of use. This enables the treating specialist to recognize deficits that occur outside the practice – namely at home. In the medium term, this can significantly improve care, as therapy goals are better achieved through more individualized plans and closer patient care becomes possible.
ichó can be used everywhere where cognition and motor skills need to be promoted; for example, for people with neurodegenerative diseases, for children with autism, for stroke patients, as well as in geriatric care.
At the beginning of October, your team was on the German start-up show "Die Höhle der Löwen" (English: "Cave of the lions", Original: "Shark Tank") together with Martin Rütter, a well-known German trainer for dogs. How did that come about?
Steffen Preuß: "Die Höhle der Löwen" has been the biggest start-up show in Germany for years. With ichó, we have developed a product that also has a very high emotional value for many people affected and relatives, which is why we have been approached for years about a possible participation in the show and the associated media presence.
Martin Rütter is one of our first investors, who got to know us and ichó very early on in the prototype phase. Due to his experience with dementia within his own family, he immediately recognized ichó's potential and has been a supporter ever since. In fact, Martin had rather advised us against participating in the show but supported us in our decision to present ichó to the lions and a large audience. Our application to the show came from us and ichó was immediately received very favorably by the editorial team. When Martin Rütter's role in our company then became known in the process, the desire to use him for a short appearance as an introduction to us was quickly obvious. The result was then broadcast at the beginning of October 2022.
What is the significance of this media presence or also the presence at REHACARE for you as a young company?
Steffen Preuß: Having a good product is only half the battle and is of no use if no one sees it. The ichó therapy ball came onto the market at the exact same time as the outbreak of the corona pandemic in 2020, and we – like all other companies – had to cope with the state of missing trade fairs, conventions and conferences.
The appearance on "Die Höhle der Löwen" was an opportunity for us to present our product to a very broad, but also large audience at once. This strengthens the entire area of marketing to those affected and their relatives.
REHACARE offers us great access to specialist audiences such as occupational therapists. Thus, especially the new contents of ichó for patients with stroke diseases or in the field of social participation can find their way to the users.
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