Now, here’s a solid reason to be frustrated when you lose a pair of socks after they come out of the laundry.
Deepti Aggarwal, a PhD scholar at the School of Engineering at the University of Melbourne, Australia, has developed “smart socks” that can help physiotherapists better diagnose and treat injuries of patients, particularly in remote areas.
Ms Aggarwal’s socks are called SoPhy and they are a piece of wearable technology that provides physiotherapists real-time information on a patient’s lower body movements.
Aggarwal’s inspiration for the socks came when her father, who lives in a small town in Uttar Pradesh, injured his ankle but was unable to travel to the city for treatment. He was unable to seek professional treatment due to the cost involved in travelling to the big city.
“Physiotherapy is all about movement,” Aggarwal tells Pursuit, the paper of to the University of Melbourne. “To assess patients’ recovery, physiotherapists must be able to observe the subtle differences in their movements,” she adds.
The PhD student has also made cumulated observations from physiotherapists at the Royal Children’s Hospital to see how video consultations can help treat rural and remote patients.
What was lacking in video consultations was the ability to observe the subtle differences in the lower limb movements of patients such as shifts in weight distribution and range of foot movements,” says Aggarwal.
So, her research focused on a technology that allows physiotherapists to better assess and treat patients during video consultations.
She designed the SoPhy, which consists of a pair of socks embedded with three sensors, which when worn by a patient, capture information about weight distribution, the range of movement and the foot orientation for their lower limb movements.
Then, using foot sketches, a web-interface helps the physiotherapists correctly read the recorded information. So during a video consultation, the patient wears the SoPhy socks and performs exercises that they would in a face-to-face session, such as standing on their toes, squats and toe curls.
“Often, without realising it, patients will apply different tricks to not bear weight on the injured leg, such as pushing through their toes or heels,” says Aggarwal. She continues, “These movements are so subtle that they can be missed by the naked eye, even in a face-to-face consultation. The SoPhy visualisation clearly highlights whether the patient is bearing any weight on the injured leg and in which parts, such as in the front, side or on the heels of the foot.”
Aggarwal’s trial at the Royal Children’s Hospital with the SoPhy yielded interesting results. It found that SoPhy increases the physiotherapists’ confidence in their assessments by providing movement-related information that wasn’t visible in the video.
And Aggarwal knows that this is not a replacement for face-to-face consultations, but rather an enhancement for remote consultations.
“They can also enhance face-to-face consultations by providing another source of clinical information to help physios make the best assessment of the patient’s needs, and provide the most effective treatment plan,” concludes Aggarwal.
It’s amazing to think how problems can create inspiration for solutions and these solutions can benefit countless people.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)