Ann Arbor augmented reality company SpellBound receives $1.8M grant for pediatric study

SpellBound's AR platform ARISE will be a part of a study on pediatric pain. (SpellBound)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – SpellBound, an Ann Arbor-based augmented reality company, has received a $1.8 million fast track grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study opioid use in pediatric cancer patients.

The study will measure the effects of SpellBound’s augmented reality scavenger hunt, ARISE, on the length of hospital stay and opioid use by pediatric cancer patients after surgery.

As patients play with ARISE, they move around their recovery space to find targets, play games, collect creatures and gather treasure as part of an underwater story.

SpellBound founder Christina York said that the immersive nature of AR acts as an internal motivator for users to move around. She stated that studies have found relationships between movement and a reduction of overall pain but getting pediatric patients to move is a challenge for clinicians. AR technology distracts from pain and offers a non-pharmacological option.

“People believe it works,” said York, “but now, the grant means we’re going to quantify that. We’re going to say exactly how much it shortens the length of stay. We’re going to say exactly how much -- quantify-- the amount of opioids a SpellBound patient will use versus a non-SpellBound patient.”

According to York, the study will be the first-of-its-kind in the area of pediatric pain. It will further validate what the company has already seen in partnering hospitals and provide a base to build on in future studies.

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Patients using ARISE will doing a scavenger hunt, collect items and learn about characters. (SpellBound)

York said that the company hasn’t set specific goals in terms of what it expects to see but any results will help set wheels in motion for advancements in technology use for pediatric care and pain management.

The fast track grant allows SpellBound to accelerate the study by combining phase 1 and phase 2 trials to test feasibility and perform clinical trials. York added that the research grant will allow SpellBound to provide support resources for research hospitals in the study, hire more engineers and evolve ARISE.

SpellBound has worked with hospitals for a few years, including hospitals at the University of Michigan, but that the NIDA grant opens doors for further development so that SpellBound can service hospitals in underserved areas, York said.

The study will begin this month at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers in Houston, Texas.

Learn more about ARISE through

ARISE can be used on the mobile technology hospitals already have. (SpellBound)

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.