In partnership with TECSOS Foundation, Spanish Red Cross Youth launched a project to incorporate new technologies into their volunteering programs with hospitalized children. The project merges Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to help children in prolonged treatments who cannot leave the hospital have a smooth experience.

Spanish Red Cross youth hospitalized children program brings volunteers in pediatric centres to engage with boys and girls in academic and recreation activities. Every year, they visit over 28k children across the country, improving their stay in environments surrounded by difficulties. This time, they wanted to discover if there is a way to enhance the life quality in the hospital through the use of new technologies.

The Design Process

The first stage included a better understanding of the situation by asking children what the challenges in hospitals are. For boys and girls, a conventional interview could worsen an already challenging circumstance. Therefore, Spanish Red Cross youth used a participatory storytelling approach to draw insights from the kids. A group of young volunteers went to different hospitals to create tales with children. The stories were designed in a way the main characters faced the same difficulties as the children. The main discoveries included:

  • Access to the world outside the hospital, mainly to open-air spaces.
  • Encounter emotional problems in using areas designated for them when adults are present.

Additionally, a literature review supported this first stage of the process.

The second stage included a deeper dive into the identified problems. Focus groups with doctors, hospital staff, and family members informed the understanding of primary challenges and potential solutions. All the mentioned groups engage most of the time with the children.

The third stage gathered multidisciplinary groups to a hackathon where teams worked together to tackle the identified problems with the help of VR and AR technologies. The winning ideas from the event included:

A virtual, customizable avatar with which the child interacts with and accompanies during his entire stay, even outside the hours Spanish Red Cross visit. This avatar serves to interact with other children who are in the same situation, prioritizing those who are closer. The way interaction is facilitated through an interface.

Finally, the ideas will become experiments this year. The design process collected valuable information and insight on how to incorporate emerging technologies in an environment where children might feel isolated. The process itself used a user-centred approach to understand better the problem before rushing into potential solutions, involving children in the different phases. Visit the website (in Spanish) for further updates!

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