AR app developed to boost recovery at Sheffield Children’s Hospital

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Artfelt collaborated with immersive content studio Megaverse to develop an AR app that transforms the treatment room into a virtual environment to help children and young people recovering from burn injuries at Sheffield Children’s Hospital

Quick read

➨ Using an iPad, users of the app can travel to arctic and woodland words

➨ Patients interact via screen-based gestures to explore and find creatures

➨ A wireless charging wall was developed with the University of Sheffield, allowing the game to load instantly

The story

An AR app developed for patients with burns-related injuries at Sheffield Children’s Hospital in the UK is being used to reduce stress and anxiety around treatments such as wound dressings.

The hospital’s charity, Artfelt, collaborated with immersive content studio Megaverse to develop the AR app, which transforms the treatment room into a virtual environment to help children and young people recovering from burn injuries.

Using an iPad, users of the app can travel to arctic and woodland words. Artwork on the walls of treatment rooms forms the backdrop for the game. A calming 3D soundscape complete with a variety of compositional layers ensures the experience does not become repetitive for those undergoing longer procedures

Patients interact via screen-based gestures to explore and find creatures. Various tapping interactions have also been added after early research found younger children enjoyed triggering sound effects.

A wireless charging wall was developed with the University of Sheffield, allowing the game to load instantly. PitStop Productions designed the soothing soundscapes, while Bose supplied sound link speakers free of charge to create the 3D sound experience.

Commenting on the medical benefits of the new AR app, Dr Charlotte Wright, senior clinical psychologist at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, said: “Procedural anxiety is usually due to a fear of pain, or memories of similar negative experiences. This can make repeated dressing changes following a burn increasingly distressing for a child, their family and our team.”

“Negative experiences in hospital can hinder a patient’s ability to cope with their burn injury and can increase wider symptoms of anxiety and trauma. Distraction has been identified as a useful non-pharmacological intervention for pain and procedural anxiety and using the Artfelt distraction app can help our patients cope with potentially painful procedures. The feedback from both patients and the staff team has been very positive!”

Clinical nurse specialist Liz Nicholls also noted a significant improvement in patients’ attitudes to their return appointments: “Children returning for appointments are asking to use the game. They are engaged in play, more cooperative and less distressed throughout the procedure.

“The application has been a really big hit with the children who have used it so far and the adults accompanying them are enjoying the distraction too.”

Jade Richardson, arts and digital commissioner at Artfelt, added: “Cooperation is so often key to procedures involving children and so it’s really important to make them as fun as possible, particularly those who have longer stays and repeat appointments.”

“We worked closely with clinical staff and patients and conducted extensive user testing to ensure they were all at the heart of the game’s development. It also ensured that the game could be put to the best possible use and seamlessly embedded into the patient experience. I’m delighted with the feedback so far.”

Image: Artfelt