Dreams Wall and Memory Koi: A Set of Digital Experiences for Clinical Positive Distraction
At Memorial Sloan Kettering's advanced new David H. Koch Center for Cancer Care in Manhattan, healing patients is their top priority. Recent medical studies demonstrate that using art and nature to create "positive distractions" provide improved clinical outcomes by reducing stress for patients and their caregivers. So our atmospheric digital installations for the Center, installed just as the pandemic took hold, are designed around the feelings and needs of patients and caregivers. Both are designed as a positive distraction for occupants, at a facility offering daily therapies for some of the most difficult health conditions.
The main first-floor entry lobby hosts the Dreams Wall, an artistic digital experience of constantly changing naturalistic phenomena. Inspired by nature, the dreams include koi fish, butterflies, flowers, and bonsai trees, all constantly changing with the seasons.
The effect is deliberately meditative and atmospheric so that it can be viewed for one minute or one hundred. Some patients or companions may see this display only once or twice, but many will see it far more frequently. The effect is also somewhat magical, in part because it is hard to tell where the light is coming from. Because light passes through thousands of actual tiny fiber-optic holes in the wood, a special lo-fi approach was required to create the original sequences.
The sixth floor hosts the second digital installation, Memory Koi. The experience responds to interaction but can also be enjoyed through passive viewing. Structured as a continuous pool, it includes multiple heights to allow for accessibility.
The virtual fish have a blend of both natural and magical qualities. With custom-built behaviors, the fish can be calm, excited, inquisitive, or shy. The school, feed, swim under plants, magically transform, and deliver messages of encouragement to patients. Proximity detection allows the pond to sense the arrival of a visitor, triggering actions that range from water ripples to the ability to feed the fish. The pond environment itself evolves colorfully over the day and seasons.
The new Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan is a cutting-edge outpatient facility for patients requiring intense daily treatments. Like the facility itself, the project had to represent "cutting edge." It had to cater both to newcomers and those who must see it many times over. It had to be universally uplifting and avoid any negative symbolism. And it had to give a moment of positivity for patients struggling with life-threatening conditions.
Recent science has clinically proven that "positive distractions" can speed healing. Random natural motion -- like what is found in water, wind, foliage, animal life, and the motion of light -- has been demonstrated to elicit positive emotion and mindfulness in medical contexts. So the digital installations gently alternate seasonally, matching pace with natural rhythms. Custom artwork depicts traditional elements of tranquility: bonsai, butterflies and koi.
The project comprises two installations. The lobby installation, Dreams Wall, consists of a single massive wood wall at the entry of the new outpatient facility. Fiber optic wood transmits light through its panels. Placing LED screen technology behind the wall results in moving images that appear as if by magic in solid material.
The sixth floor hosts the second digital installation, Memory Koi. The experience responds to interaction but can also be enjoyed through passive viewing. Structured as a continuous virtual koi pond, it includes multiple heights to allow for accessibility.
The client observed that the digital experiences increased patient connections. Patients gravitate to the digital experience when passing time, in-patients return to the installations over course of treatment, nature sounds enhance the overall environment, and there are anecdotes about increased laughter (especially from children).