AR alleviates pain for amputees

Augmented reality is being tipped as a tool to combat phantom limb pain (PLP) in amputees after research that emerged from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. The augmented reality system demonstrated is relatively simple but its impact on sufferers of PLP, who can experience severe pain in a missing limb as if it were still there, could be profound.

Max Ortiz Catalan, a researcher at Chalmers University of Technology, combined a number of existing technologies to test the system on a patient who has suffered from severe phantom limb pain for 48 years.

Muscle signals from the patient´s arm stump were detected by electrodes on the skin and used to drive the augmented reality system. The signals were translated into arm movements by specially developed algorithms.

Using a simple webcam the patient was able to see himself on a monitor with a superimposed virtual arm, which was controlled using his own neural command in real time.

Catalan’s study shows a marked improvement in the patient’s pain that was a times debilitating and had not responded to existing treaments.

The research group has also developed a system that can be used at home and patients will be able to apply this therapy on their own, once it has been approved.

Read a case study detailing the research