The cliché says laughter is the best medicine—and a new interactive area inside the duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., is bringing a lot of smiles to the young users who are looking to recover from what ails them.
San Francisco-based Kinesis Studio outfitted the hospital’s new gesture-based Discovery Zone with 45 46-inch NEC X464UN displays as part of what studio director Dogan Demir calls a “fun and social alternative to the cold and dark rooms and lobbies” that are typically part of hospital stays.
The Discovery Zone, which visitors can see when they walk into the new 5-story atrium, is comprised of a 50-foot-wide by nine-foot-high NEC digital video wall where up to 30 kids, teens and adults can interact at one time. The Discovery Zone opened in mid-September and is part of a massive expansion of the hospital.
“The Discovery Zone is a marriage of gesture technology, animation and creative story-telling, the biggest install of its kind in a hospital,” says Kinesis CEO Greg Richey.
Magical creatures and blooming plants appear on the digital canvas. Using Microsoft Kinect2 technology, the Discovery Zone lets kids interact with these objects and expand their imaginations.
“Over time, it went from just being something fun to trying to come up with therapeutic effects and getting the kids to do things,” says Demir, who first started talking to hospital officials about working together in mid-2011.
Feedback from hospital educators, nurses, doctors, therapists, kids and others helped bring the digital canvas to life. The early returns have been nothing but positive.
“We know this experience is going to be transformative for many children, their siblings and parents,” says Dr. Neil Izenberg, chief executive of Nemours Center for Children’s Health Media, the parent company of the duPont Hospital in Delaware, Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando and major pediatric specialty clinics in Delaware, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The biggest obstacle on this project came well before the actual installation, says Demir.
“We didn’t have the space in San Francisco to put up a 50-foot wall so we had to prototype about one-fifth of the system at a time,” he says. Physical and occupational therapists from duPont came to San Francisco to test the interactions before Kinesis installed the wall in Delaware.
There were also aspects of the project Kinesis had to change after installing the wall and testing it for hospital officials. They removed red from the body color palette because hospital staffers worried it would remind the children too much of blood. They also added some explainer icons so the young users had a better idea of how to interact with the wall, including how to help birds fly with their hands.
Demir and his team also added sound and functional capabilities to the Discovery Zone wall, including lights that look like storms, sunlight and other effects.
Everyone Learned Something
Kinesis “tried to incorporate as much testing as possible” into the wall, says Demir, but “for an installation of this scale, we definitely could have done more.” This was the first 24/7 installation for Kinesis, he says.
“We got a total different understanding of the hospital environment,” says Demir. “We now better understand their needs and challenges.”
Kinesis can monitor the software remotely and have technology partners in the area if there’s a hardware issue. The sides are discussing a “near-term future collaboration,” says Demir, which would produce “data that’s medically useful.”
“There’s a lot in terms of how much we can push the technology,” he says.
Here’s a look at the Discovery Zone in action: