Today’s Solutions: March 03, 2024

Virtual reality (VR) is not just about gaming; it’s increasingly finding profound applications in unexpected places. Dr. Evelyn Chan, an Australian pediatrician, uses virtual reality to transform needle procedures into immersive excursions for children, altering how they perceive medical treatments. Let’s look at the fascinating story of Smileyscope and its dramatic impact on pediatric healthcare.

Alleviating fear and pain

Dr. Chan developed Smileyscope after witnessing children’s anxiety and anguish during medical procedures. She established Smileyscope in 2017 with a defined aim. “Most VR is just a distraction,” explains Chan. “But we turn those sensations into something less scary.”

Making the vision a reality

Dr. Chan faced obstacles in achieving her goals since she lacked both technological expertise and sufficient funds. To solve these challenges, she partnered with the worldwide digital agency DEPT. They launched a quick prototyping campaign with a small team of software developers, animators, UX designers, and sound engineers.

From concept to implementation

The initial concept, an aquatic excursion timed with the medical process, established the groundwork. Choosing the correct hardware was critical. The team chose Google Daydream, a low-cost and user-friendly headgear. This decision enabled rapid testing and iteration, with the headset’s portability allowing testing in a variety of locations, including schools.

Developing an antimicrobial VR solution

Smileyscope began developing unique medical-grade hardware after the software proved to be useful. What was the result? An antimicrobial headset for children as young as four, suitable for a wide range of medical situations, including emergency care, cancer wards, and surgery.

The outcomes were significant— follow-up clinical investigations revealed that Smileyscope decreased patients’ pain by 60 percent, lowered their anxiety levels by 40 percent, and cut the requirement for restraints in half. Presently, Smileyscope is the norm in Australian pediatric hospitals and has received authorization for utilization in American facilities, including Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Testing and iterating 

Smileyscope’s success was based on ongoing testing and iteration. Scenes and feelings were adjusted daily, with needles synchronized with virtual fish to produce a seamless and delightful experience. Dr. Chan and the DEPT team collaborated closely with children and medical professionals to acquire useful information.

Early “a-ha” moments came when children accepted the needles. Smileyscope’s therapeutic applications have grown beyond needle procedures to include calming patients before and after various medical surgeries. Spatial audio and augmented reality were explored, opening up new possibilities for assisting the visually impaired and improving medical practices.

Virtual reality’s transformative potential

Dr. Chan underlines the value of virtual reality as a tool for helping individuals reinvent their world. VR has expanded beyond Smileyscope’s original vision, with uses in exposure therapy, medical simulation, teaching, and even PTSD treatment. The immersive experience is effective not only for distraction but also for fostering mental wellness and mindfulness.

Smileyscope is a tribute to the transforming power of virtual reality when used by imaginative individuals. Dr. Evelyn Chan’s novel method has not only helped countless children overcome their fear of needles, but it has also opened the door to new possibilities in healthcare.

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