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VR gives kids the power to dream with their eyes wide open

Healthcare providers worldwide are facing a new set of problems due to Covid. Discover how immersive technology can alleviate some of them, while bringing moments of magic to kids 'stuck' in hospital.
April 16, 2021
7
min read

Lockdown has opened our eyes to situations and feelings we don’t normally experience. Many of us realise for the first time in our lives how lonely and soul-numbing confinement can be.

Now imagine being confined to a hospital bed every day, as a child, when your awe, wonder and curiosity for life would normally be at its peak. For kids fighting life-threatening illnesses, confinement is an everyday reality and it's worsened by the current health crisis. They can’t go play with their friends, take a dog for a walk, or even dream about travelling somewhere special.

In Virtual Reality, the magic of the world is only a moment away. That's why we have been working on a special project with Reach For a Dream, a non-profit organisation that has been fulfilling kids' dreams for over 30 years, touching hundreds of thousands of little lives along the way.

Custom-made DreamKits harness the power of VR to immerse kids in hospitals into moments of magic instead, bringing them closer to their dreams virtually.

Unfortunately, deploying and running VR systems in hospitals puts a spotlight on many of the pain points that VR faces in other use-cases: complicated controls, messy cables and cumbersome device management, to name a few. Healthcare clients kept reporting the same pain points, so we set out to fix them:

  • How do you train people (nurses, doctors and kids) to use VR technology?
  • How do you make the experience intuitive and easy to use?
  • Who maintains the system and ensures it is running optimally at all times?
  • How do you manage content and devices that are spread across one or multiple hospitals?

Connecting kids to content that inspires future dreaming, now.

With the pandemic raging in many parts of the world, we wanted to give these kids a chance to make their dreams come true as soon as possible, even before launching Eden Snacker, our solution to all the above-mentioned problems.

First, we curated a collection of inspirational child-friendly VR content pieces and created a magical immersive world in which kids could select these dream experiences. From diving with dolphins and riding roller coasters, to drag racing cars and discovering faraway galaxies, kids really can go to infinity and beyond with 360º video content.

For immediate deployment, we settled for Oculus Go headsets even though they have been discontinued by Facebook and no longer receive enterprise support. An inconvenient choice – but for some of these kids, every day counts.

Working with Oculus Go headsets as a pilot turned out to be a hassle: the VR experience can only be started from within the headset, requiring assistance and complicating onboarding.

The results of our pilot project were fantastic. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing smiles on small faces and hearing gasps of delight as bed bound kids are transported into their wildest dreams, virtually. For us, this is the currency that really counts, but the project was a commercial success too: Reach For a Dream ordered more DreamKits immediately after our first visit. Seeing the kids' reactions, they were instantly convinced that Virtual Reality will play a significant role in their mission.

But viewing 360 degree videos is just the beginning, we're already dreaming about and designing much more.

Connection multiplied, with VR multiplayer games and experiences.

Every parent who is currently ‘locked-down’ at home with their kids knows the power that multiplayer games have to bring people together through play.

For us, VR multiplayer games and worlds are the pinnacle of connection in hospital environments. From the safety of their hospital beds, kids can connect across hospital wards or even across the globe, allowing interaction and play dates in immersive virtual worlds far beyond what their real life situation can offer.

Even in its simplest form, multi-user movie viewing with voice chat can create the magic of shared social experiences, allowing hospital bound kids to spend time with their family and friends in immersive environments.

By embodying avatars (even basic ones), kids can feel like they’re ‘physically’ in the same space despite distance, without all the health risks of physical touch that are unfortunately a real threat to some of them.

Our vision is to use VR technology to fulfil the essential need of social interaction that these kids are stripped of due to an unfortunate stroke of fate. But before tackling that, we had to fix the unsolved problems that arise when using off-the-shelf headsets like Oculus Go.

Making the connection between modern and traditional tech.

The biggest obstacle for mass deployment of VR in healthcare and other industries is its complexity. It's just far too complicated for non-techy users like nurses, doctors or kids to use quickly and easily.

On top of that, headset batteries regularly run flat, cables pull users out of their immersion and often, players cannot grasp how to use VR controls even after thorough explanations – leaving them with a bad experience that makes them feel inept. If you have ever worked with VR headsets in a professional way, you will know many of these pain points.

This is why we created Eden Snacker and Eden Station, a VR solution that everyone can use, no matter their age or technical level. A major part of its simplicity results from the addition of an easy-to-use touchscreen that controls VR experiences – so nobody needs to learn new, complicated headset controls.

Snacker integrates seamlessly with our browser-based XR Platform, making content deployment, analytics and device management easy, from anywhere in the world. Its robust set of VR device management tools (VR MDM) is intuitive and lets you know of any problems before they arise.

Eden Snacker and Station
We designed Eden Snacker and Eden Station as a turnkey system that everyone can use, allowing easy VR deployment in hospitals, healthcare and other industries.

To guarantee friction-free access to Eden XR Platform, Snacker and Station have optional 4G and 5G modules, so your VR systems are always connected even when WiFi or tethered internet is not an option. The whole system is built on Microsoft Azure®, guaranteeing 24/7 uptime and fast speeds, no matter which continent you operate from. Additionally, Eden Station can control multiple headsets, allowing a group of patients to choose and enjoy different experiences at the same time.

This package solves the four main problems with VR deployment in healthcare, all at once.

  • No one needs to be trained to use VR technology – if doctors, nurses or patients can use a smartphone, they can use Snacker without explanations.
  • By design, the experience is intuitive, easy to use, and human-centric. Simplicity is the whole reason why we created Snacker in the first place.
  • Snacker systems can be maintained remotely through Eden XR Platform, constantly sending status updates to your IT team in case they are needed.
  • Deploying VR across multiple locations or countries is a built-in functionality of Eden XR Platform, making global VR rollouts a breeze.

The future is full of smiles.

Giving kids the opportunity to experience things they might not believe they’ll ever get the chance to experience, sparks the imagination, encourages hope and connects them to what they can see, do and be one day in the future.

With Virtual Reality, these experiences are possible, even during Covid. It's really easy to see that the potential for VR to solve problems and spread smiles in healthcare and beyond is virtually endless.

If you are a healthcare provider looking to give your patients a chance for escapism and entertainment, or a content creator working on child-friendly experiences, please reach out to us – we would love to talk to you.

Maxine Lea Nel

Maxine Lea Nel

Head of Content, Eden

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