“This is a truly thoughtful experience that really delivers for its young audience. The playful interactivity diverts their attention to an imaginative world.” —juror Gabe Kean
“Love the idea of positive distraction.” —juror Natalie Lam
Overview: In the waiting room of the Department of Pediatric Radiation Oncology at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, a young patient plays with a surprised virtual frog. The frog, a bunny and a duck are the three avatars of Forest Friends, an interactive installation that provides the center’s patients with a positive distraction from the stressful, repetitive experience of radiation treatments. Children can choose their avatar and play with the animal via interactive windows located throughout the center—transcending the four walls to embark on an epic woodland journey.
•The target audience was pediatric cancer patients up to age eighteen.
•Children choose their avatar by selecting a near field communication (NFC) bracelet. Each interactive window along the visit has an associated NFC reader that enables children to interact with their friend.
•Treatment can continue for fifteen days in a row, so interactive design firm Potion developed a system that evolves day by day with each user’s input.
Comments by Holly Houghton, producer, Emmi Laakso and Steve Varga at Potion:
What are the project’s core features? “At the core of the experience are the three possible forest friends: a bunny, a duck and a frog. With each visit, children can choose their avatar and take the animal with them on a journey through the waiting, examination and induction rooms. The three forest friends have distinct sets of traits, and they exhibit such behaviors as boredom, excitement and surprise. The waiting room has four interactive trees that grow from seed to tree; more than ten discoverable interactive elements, including mushrooms, flowers and eggs; and more than twelve ambient elements, including hot air balloons, animals, butterflies and kites. All of these elements are randomized in combination with a changing background to create a distinct environment for each visit. The exam room has seven different environmental elements, LED colors and soundscapes.”
What was the thinking behind the navigational structure? “There were a number of considerations taken with regard to how the patient navigates the pediatric oncology space and how to best support patients and staff. To reflect the needed energy level of the patient, the interactive elements become less active and less engaging as the patient moves from the waiting room to the exam room and finally to the induction room. Each element also has a parent/staff interface, which enables the adults to interact as the patient moves from room to room.”
What software, back-end technology and programming languages were used? “The project is written in C++/OpenGL using Cinder, along with Potion’s custom scene graph, po::Scene, and Node.js web services for communication. The interactive bell, which the patient rings to celebrate a finished treatment, was augmented using a BeagleBone black microcontroller and a Piezo sensor; WebSocket messages inform the other interactives that the bell is ringing. The waiting room interactives run on a custom PC; the others use Mac Mini computers with custom enclosures.”