With about 34,000 chil­dren visit­ing Star­ship Chil­dren’s Emer­gency De­part­ment ev­ery year, one of the first ar­eas they en­counter is the wait­ing room. Any­one who’s spent a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time in such rooms knows just how dis­heart­en­ing such spa­ces can be for anxious par­ents and un­well kids alike.

But that’s all changed, at Star­ship at least. A col­lab­o­ra­tive part­ner­ship be­tween Rush Dig­i­tal, ASB and The Star­ship foun­da­tion has cre­ated a new wait­ing room en­vi­ron­ment at the hos­pi­tal that helps calm chil­dren and pre­pare them for treat­ment.

ASB and its cus­tomers raised more than $1 mil­lion to fund the project, and Rush Dig­i­tal got to work de­sign­ing and de­vel­op­ing the ex­pe­ri­ences in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Star­ship chil­dren’s emer­gency de­part­ment staff, young pa­tients and ASB.

Cre­ated by Rush Dig­i­tal, two dis­tinct de­sign fea­tures now de­fine the space – the “Star­ship An­i­mal Check-ups”, a wall of frames fea­tur­ing dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters to take chil­dren through check-up ex­pe­ri­ences, fa­mil­iaris­ing them with the pro­cesses they will soon un­der­take with the clin­i­cal team and the “Magic For­est”, a spec­tac­u­lar Avatar-like scene which cre­ates a calm­ing space to re­lax and en­joy quiet time.

The cre­ative process in­volved be­hav­iour ob­ser­va­tion, talk­ing to play spe­cial­ists and nurses, and un­der­stand­ing the dif­fer­ent be­havioural strate­gies used to re­duce anx­i­ety and cre­ate a calm, fun en­vi­ron­ment in such spa­ces. A hu­man-cen­tred de­sign ap­proach was used to em­pathise, ideate and pro­to­type the ex­pe­ri­ences.

Now up and run­ning, the en­vi­ron­ment uses a mix of sen­sors – such as cus­tom tem­per­a­ture and heart-rate sen­sors – and re­lies heav­ily on com­puter vi­sion and ma­chine learn­ing (namely, cus­tom fa­cial land­mark de­tec­tion and track­ing) com­bined with the Mi­crosoft Kinect for depth sens­ing and full body skele­tal track­ing.

“This col­lab­o­ra­tion was a melt­ing pot of peo­ple, pri­or­i­ties and ob­jec­tives,” Rush Dig­i­tal says. “We were very con­sid­er­ate of all par­ties in­clud­ing ASB, ADHB and Star­ship, so when they en­gaged Rush to help ideate and ex­e­cute the ini­tia­tive to im­prove the ex­pe­ri­ence at Star­ship we also had to con­sider all of the staff, pa­tients and stake­hold­ers.”

The ini­tia­tive stands out as a world class in­ter­ac­tive tech­nol­ogy to calm ner­vous pa­tients and their whā­nau at what is of­ten one of the most dif­fi­cult times of their lives.

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