Children about to have surgery can now play a virtual reality game to reduce their anxiety.
The 360-degree, first-person interactive story is designed for two- to eight-year-olds so that they get to know medical instruments and strange surroundings while becoming a hero with the help of friendly characters.
Medical VR Solution by South Korean gaming firm JSC was being showcased at the Wearable Technology Show at ExCeL in east London this week.
Five minutes before their procedure the young patient puts on a VR headset to collect “magic items” in the game so the experience is fresh in their mind.
They collect items in scenarios including having an injection, going for surgery, getting an X-ray and anaesthesia.
The game’s creators say the experience helps reduce stress by 40 per cent.
The backdrop the child sees can be changed so it matches their hospital. The missions are completed with the encouragement of a Transformers-style Carbot and there is also a “germ monster” to defeat.
At the start of their mission, the child is shown into a waiting area by a friendly cartoon character, where there are other youngsters on beds who say how brave the patient is.
They are given hospital pyjamas and are introduced to doctors and nurses. The child can inspect medical instruments such as a finger pulse oximeter, which the game calls a magic laser ring.
Carbot tells them how a blood pressure band “can feel tight wrapped around your arm, but it’s only for a second, so don’t be scared”.
When the mission in the game on show at ExCeL is complete, the anaesthetist puts a mask on the child and the guide character tells them: “My friend, we won. You are the best. Now you’re off to dream land!”
The technology was developed in collaboration with medics and child psychologists using cognitive behavioural therapy techniques at the Bundang Seoul National University Hospital. It is being rolled out internationally and the next step is developing a version for the dentist’s chair.
Sehwan Lee of JSC, which stands for Joyful Space of Creation, said results from questionnaires answered by children after operations show stress levels reduced by 40 per cent compared to those not using the game.