Australian student using 'smart socks' to allow remote treatment by a physiotherapist

Source: AAP

A University of Melbourne PhD candidate is using "smart socks" to provide physiotherapy to those who would not usually be able to get to it.

Deepti Aggarwal has developed wearable sock units which send information on weight distribution, foot orientation and range of movement to physiotherapists who treat patients through video consultations.

Three sensors are embedded in the socks that patients wear while performing exercises as a web-interface displays the data in real time for physiotherapists.

"Smart socks" have been around a little while already, with companies like Sensoria commercially producing sensor-based socks, but Ms Aggarwal's use of the units in the medical field is pushing into new ground.

"Lower limb movements are difficult to understand over video, the movements are so subtle," Ms Aggarwal said.

The smart socks were trialled with three patients and a physiotherapist at the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, between February and June 2017 and they were an instant hit.

"When I was trialling these socks, the patients wanted to take the socks home and physiotherapists wanted to use them with other patients," Ms Aggarwal told AAP.

Ms Aggarwal's prototype socks, which cost $300 to make, are not currently available for sale.

"My hope is that someone takes this system and takes it to the market," she said.

"There are many more dimensions we can explore - it can be beneficial for foot injuries, even for elderly people."

The technology could also be used for pregnant women who can't regularly travel for face-to-face care, she said.

"(It's) not a replacement for face-to-face consultations, rather they're the next best solution to support patients in critical situations such as those with severe pain and mobility issues."