As a child patient, the hospital can be scary and lonely. Decisions are made for and about you that you may not understand by people you don't really know. In many cases you can be there for long periods of time. To help make that stay a little less scary, give a connection to the outside world, and give back a modicum of control Potion create City Explorer for the new Hassenfeld Children's Hospital. The large scale digital experience gives patients and their families a chance to explore an illustrated, virtual New York and, through gesture, magically engage with and alter the environment.
A Children's Hospital is an environment for that can be uniquely challenging for patients and their families. Patients aren't always able to understand the requirements of their care, they are separated from their friends and routines, they are without many of the accoutrements of life as a kid, and of course, things are being done to them and there bodies that can be painful and scary. This can make it a uniquely intimidating, lonely, or disempowering environment. The challenge with City Explorer was to design a digital experience that could help patients relax and pass the time, and in doing so, hopefully make their stay a little bit less difficult.
To respond to this environment, City Explorer was designed around a few key components. Research showed kids were rarely at the hospital alone and often had siblings for whom the experience was similarly disorienting. So, it had to be an experience that could be shared as a family. Many patients were sensitive to infection, so it also had to involve minimal touch. Younger patients could be pre-literate, so it shouldn't be too text driven. Patients were often in wheelchairs, or potentially hooked up to IVs, so it needed to function for patients with that kind of mobility constraint. Patients were also often in for long stretches so it should give them a sense of escape and not always be the same. Finally, it had to be fun!
In its final design, City Explorer is an interactive virtual tour of New York. It allows patients and their families to visit hand-illustrated 3D renderings of eight classic locations around the city. Upon arrival, they use special powers to manipulate and alter the spaces and characters. Modify a Kandinsky at the MoMA or paint your own with Telekinesis. Take over the signs in Times Square or have your picture put up on them. Shape shift into animals at the Bronx Zoo. Or grab a power up, and activate multi-species hip hop dance party. Fly around the Brooklyn Bridge, Change the time of year in Central Park, and control time of day on the skyline, and even control the fireworks on the 4th of July.
Using gesture control to avoid germ issues, we built a system that can accommodate up to six concurrent players, including those who may use a wheelchair or be with an IV hangar so that even big families and groups of friends can play together. To add a sense of personalization and change, the system is even integrated with the hospital's child art program, allowing original art by patients to be brought into the world of the game in places like the MoMA and Times Square on a regular basis.