Any tool that can help a dentist reduce discomfort from a dental procedure is a breakthrough, but in some cases eliminating pain entirely is not possible. One futuristic face mask might help in those instances.

The U.S. military is researching a mask with special software that can reduce a person’s perception of pain simply by engaging him or her in a virtual game. During dental work, physical therapy, or changing of bandages on a burn wound, this would be a welcome benefit.

According to a recent article by Richard Sammon:

Information from chemical signals produced in the brain when someone is distracted, concentrating, dreaming or feeling pain will be used in developing the mask.
The mask will take the patient on a virtual tour. Sights, sounds and distractions—both calm and frantic—will focus the wearer’s attention on the virtual game and away from pain.
The goal is to lessen the effect of pain signals and make an ordeal with a surgeon or doctor more manageable. It’s a top priority for the military, and future civilian applications are a good bet as the technology improves. Samsung and Sony are leading research being done at the University of Washington and at the University of Texas.

Read more about this technology and other research being done by the private labs and companies under the auspices of the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at:

© Courtesy Department of Defense