Researchers develop toy-tool to distract infant burn victims from pain

August 28th, 2008 - 3:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Aug 28 (IANS) Cunningly disguised as a toy, a new medical device can distract infant burns victims from excruciating pain. Designed by Sam Bucolo, Queensland University of Technology associate professor, ‘Ditto’ is a virtual reality-inspired diversionary therapy aid.

Bucolo said that ‘Ditto’ is able to distract a child’s attention to help them through the painful process of having burns dressings changed, which a patient may endure several times before recovery.

Bucolo said ‘Ditto’ was undergoing clinical trials to recognise it as a fully-fledged medical device, and it has been shown to be more effective at reducing pain scores than the traditional methods of distraction used in hospitals, such as videos and computer games.

“Burns patients need to have their bandages changed three times a week for up to two months, and this is a very painful experience,” Bucolo explained.

“The children are already anxious when they arrive at the hospital, because they know the procedure is going to hurt.

“However, we know that pain perception has a strong psychological component that can be overcome with appropriate preparation and distraction.”

Bucolo said ‘Ditto’ was designed for infants between three and eight years old and used multi-modal interaction a technology that was closely related to virtual reality, but did not require bulky equipment or goggles that might distress young, anxious children.

“The child holds the circular Ditto device and tilts it to navigate through the virtual world, rather than using a keyboard or separate game controller.

“The whole form of the toy is the interface. It has a touch screen and vibrating handles.

“Children can choose a character who accompanies them through the games, ‘find and touch’ stories and sing-along movies. They can also take a figurine of their character home with them.”

Professor Bucolo said the virtual world could be seen from all angles simply by moving the toy. “They can even look underneath objects by tipping it upside-down,” he said.

‘Ditto’ is likely to hit the markets by the year-end.

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