Kinect helps relieve fear at Boston Children's Hospital

Published: May 16, 2015 12:20 PM /


UConn Interactive Media Wall

Going to the hospital is always a little bit scary, especially for young children. creative minds, however, have devised a way to turn an ordinary waiting room into an interactive stress reliever. Boston Children’s Hospital, a pediatric hospital, installed a Kinect-enabled interactive media wall in its recently renovated lobby.

The 20-foot-tall, gently curved wall engages the young patients and their families as it displays any of nine scenes, each filled with special effects controlled by the onlookers’ movements. Parents and children can make stars in a night sky move with a wave of their hand, or make leaves rustle by walking.

The kinect enabled media wall gives kids who might have cancer or another long term illness a much needed break from the fear. It's there to give these kids a sense of control and power when they feel afraid and helpless.

The wall was crafted by the combined talents of designers, engineers, mathematicians, and behavioral specialists at the University of Connecticut (Uconn).

“Our goal was to create something that would empower physically and emotionally challenged children at a time in their life when most events are beyond their control,” said Tim Hunter, director of UConn’s Digital Media Center and Digital Media & Design program in a statement. “Doctors and nurses, along with Mom and Dad, dictate most of what’s happening to them — for good reason. We wanted to make something the kids could take control of — something that would be theirs; something they would look forward to when they come to the hospital.”

"However,” Hunter continues, “we wanted to create something for the family, too. After all, the entire family is going through this, and we wanted to let parents be part of the engagement, to be able to have this group family experience.”

13 Kinect sensors and seven optical cameras, which combine to cover a space of 18 feet by 24 feet, is the technology behind this small gift. The project was begun in 2012, before the Kinect for Windows v2 sensor was available, but the finished installation uses a combination of five v2 and eight original sensors, all mounted overhead.

The interactive media wall opened in late 2014, to rave reviews from patients, families, and hospital staff. While the technological wizardry is indeed amazing, the real enchantment of the wall is found in the smiles on the faces of seriously ill children, who can take control of their environment and find delight in making worlds all their own.

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