Utilizing an Augmented Reality System to Address Phantom Limb Syndrome in a Cloud-Based Environment

Utilizing an Augmented Reality System to Address Phantom Limb Syndrome in a Cloud-Based Environment

Afeef Sheikh (Nikola Tesla STEM High School, Redmond, WA, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/IJGHPC.2017010102
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Phantom Limb Syndrome (PLS) is the perception of sensations, often including chronic intense pain localized to the site of an amputated or denervated limb. This syndrome is relatively common in amputees; the pain often reflects the amount of pre-amputation pain, and is often refractory to excision of amputation neuroma, rubbing, electrical stimulation, peripheral nerve or spinal blocks, narcotics, and sympathectomy (Alviar et al., 2011). Mirror therapy, a present method of rehabilitation, is estimated to be only 60% effective in upper limb amputees while also requiring expensive equipment and monitoring by a caretaker or technician. This paper is aimed at designing an affordable, effective, and accessible alternative solution to address the rehabilitation challenges associated with PLS. Using the power of Augmented Reality (AR) coupled with open source software, such as Unity3D and Vuforia, and commonly used devices like cellphones and computers, the prototype can read muscle activity and create an onscreen image of a virtual hand in place-of the individual's lost hand and can mimic basic hand movements through the use of an AR camera. Due to the limited processing power present within most cellphones, the solution is being refined to capitalize on Cloud computing. In doing so, the hand model can be rendered offsite and streamed directly to the phone, resulting in a higher equality image. The efficacy of this solution has not yet been tested on human subjects by virtue of legal restrictions. This system is currently being forwarded to qualified individuals who have the necessary credentials to perform clinical trials in a certified lab environment.
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Given the large number of amputations performed annually, rehabilitation methods play a crucial role in helping individuals to adapt to their changed lifestyle (Rayegani et al., 2010). When compared with other areas of medicine, such as robotic surgery and body imaging, the current process for rehabilitating impaired upper limb patients is not nearly as advanced and lacks a modern technological touch (Prakash & Golwala, 2011). Present rehabilitation methods, although useful, are commonly limited by the fact that they require the patient to be constantly monitored by a caretaker or technician, and may require expensive equipment (Bach et al., 1988). One commonly used technique, mirror therapy, utilizes a mirror box to develop the user’s visual feedback skills (Karanikolas et al., 2011). The main application of mirror therapy is to alleviate issues with Phantom Limb Syndrome and aid in restoring functionality to the affected individual’s limb. Hence, the field of upper limb rehabilitation is in dire need of rehabilitation methods that are a blend of innovation, easy access, and low cost to administer (Mao & Chen, 2000).

This research paper aims to contribute to the discussion of how modern consumer-grade software and hardware technology can be harnessed to deliver a low cost, easy-to-use solution that mimics the concepts of Mirror Therapy to address the rehabilitation of individuals affected by Phantom Limb Syndrome. The prototype is built using a mix of augmented reality, open source software, and commonly used devices, such cellphones or computers, to create an affordable, effective, and accessible solution for the treatment of phantom limb syndrome.

Given the benefits that Cloud computing offers, this solution is designed to work in both pure and hybrid Cloud scenarios. Typically, a cellphone’s processing power is relatively limited when it comes to rendering complex 3D shapes and related aspects such as anti-aliasing. The Cloud-based solution offers high performance computing coupled with seamless data management. In order to create the most life-like limb experience, the proposed solution utilizes the Cloud to compute the complex calculations for the desired actions and then streams the runtime application and corresponding data to a user’s device. Additionally, it provides immense flexibility in administering therapy by enabling individuals to store their specific data in the Cloud and access it anywhere, anytime, and on any device.

With regard to the novelty of this solution, the utilization of augmented reality and Cloud computing are the most unique aspects. Augmented reality is a technology that is still being developed and has minimal usage outside of entertainment systems and is essentially unheard of in the field of medicine. The effective use of augmented reality demonstrates its potential application not only to phantom limb syndrome, but hopefully to other diseases, disorders, or challenges. Furthermore, Cloud computing has frequently found its uses in data management and software development, but has not been extensively integrated into rehabilitation methods. Much like augmented reality, the usage of Cloud computing in the prototype will hopefully instill a desire to search for more of its applications within the scientific community.

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