A while back I realized how the term prosthetic applies to so many of our add-on items. Since then we have also seen the rise to stardom of Amber Case. It now seems to be also terribly undefined and unclear exactly how an interface between stump and phantom replacement is supposed to look like.
One way to replace a phantom hand with a visual appearance is using a prosthetic arm. That has the disadvantage of being different and stiff, mostly unintuitive and clumsy, heavy, at times even smelly, some of the practical but most somewhat if not outright ugly - at least, comparing it with a more embedded experience.
Another way to replace a phantom hand is by using a mirror box. However, mirror therapy is a rather strenuous mental exercise. It also is not good for just anybody - my phantom pains, for example, got quite a bit worse with the mirror box.
For a person with disability such as me, game consoles usually are a bit of a problem. On one hand [p] these offer great distraction and entertainment, on the other hand [p], the control interface usually sucks.
These controllers usually are hard or impossible to really use with a hand and a forearm stump. So playing games if at all usually worked best using a computer mouse.
But now, check out this interface.
For better understanding: behind these front buttons containing different avatar images, my phantom body complete with a mirror image of my left (L) and right (R) hand, my head (H) and my body (B) is shown. When I move my hands, I see my hands!
The thing is, I can play this with the extended motion of my left hand and my right stump - and what I get to see, is the full bodied me!
Ahh : ) first of all, this is a great relief. To see yourself like that is an enormous relief. Secondly, for the time I now played some relatively harmless motion games, I did not have the burning and stabbing sensation of phantom pains. As I type this, phantom sensations and pains are back. Placebo, retail therapy effect, acute sensory distraction - whatever it is, it was a new and great experience. I will try with different virtual experiences though.
But now you know. Maybe you want to try it out too. If anything, self respecting neurologists should use these Microsoft XBOX 360 with KINECT to study various aspects of phantom pain because, really, this is the glorified and animated virtual version of their mirror box.
It took some researchers 3 years to catch up with this idea here.
Lo and behold, they actually published some research, but mind you - only in form of a case report [bibcite key=ortiz2014]! No control group, no study group, no sizable numbers such as 150 amputees or anything like it. Just a case.
And they did not cite my first report of this effect (here), obviously - but that aside, this does appear like academia trying to play catch-up with amputee related experiences. That cannot all be bad, even though they still may want to work on their plagiarism and fairness bits a bit more. Just a minute little bit.
After all, they write that "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that AR, gaming, and the prediction of motion intent using myoelectric pattern recognition have been used together as a treatment for PLP". Sounds interesting. But then, there are not so many pioneers writing their guts out in the field around, are there. In fact, the general truth is that "whatever it is, as long as it is some type of prosthetic related activity, the arm amputee is likely to experience a degree of diminished phantom pain". Neurological and psychological processes then are assumed to intertwine although neither I nor the authors of that study really know why. So in terms of "do something to feel better" we are not one inch more advanced after this study. Unless of course you sell 8 channel myoelectric game setups, but then you need controls (and not just a 1 case thingy such as here). Reading his comment [link], the author seems to be blissfully oblivious to this, as disregarding my reference to phantom pain, he sees Kinect and his toy as "fundamentally different".
To explain what I meant: use an iron bar, and a hammer, of the same shape to hit against a porcelain cup. It will break in both instances, in a similar way. I look at the broken porcelain cup and say "same difference" and Doctor Ortiz-Catalan tells us that a hammer and an iron bar are "fundamentally different".
For their next publication that heavily leans on stuff they found elsewhere, I suggest they word their "Roald Amundsen"-statement like this: "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that (idea goes here) was investigated using this Swedish team north of (put Latitude here)".
[p] pun intended.