If I told you we took a handful of patients at Children’s Hospital to the sidelines of a football game, that probably wouldn’t strike you as anything terribly extraordinary. But what if I told you we followed that up by taking them skydiving? Or better yet, when we finished skydiving they got to drive a racecar, and go scuba diving and even ride a dragon!
At Telegraph, we have a quote on our wall that says “Creativity is the ability to connect the seemingly unconnected.” It serves as a constant reminder that we work in an industry where nothing should be considered impossible. We’re constantly looking for the right mixture of creativity and technology to help our clients connect with their customers in impactful ways and occasionally we’re able to put that same type of thinking to use beyond our typical client work.
For brands and marketers, VR is a storytelling platform like no other. It’s truly as close as we have come to accomplishing actual teleportation. For brands like hotels or vacation destinations, VR can transport potential visitors in for a sneak preview. For sports and entertainment brands, VR can give fans exclusive access to everything from sidelines to backstage. For travelers, adventurers and educators, VR can give us access to the typically inaccessible. And, with VR, there is a level of emotion involved in experiencing a story that goes beyond anything we’ve seen before. It’s why journalists have started using VR to evoke empathy and a deeper understanding of things like war-torn regions and third-world countries. In short, VR is changing the storytelling game and we’ve just scratched the surface with its possibilities.
During my time as a Creative Director in Chicago, I became familiar with a nonprofit organization called Open Heart Magic that teaches magic tricks to volunteers who then use that to entertain children in hospitals. It’s a wonderful organization that provides a much-needed escape for the patients they serve. When I started working with virtual reality a little over a year ago, the idea of doing something similar to Open Heart Magic, but with VR experiences, came to mind. Being in Birmingham, there seemed like no better place to test it out than Children’s of Alabama.
“Most of my patients are on isolation, so they’re not leaving their room for sometimes 7 to 21 days.” - Joy Hardy, Child Life Specialist, Children’s of Alabama
Many of the patients at Children’s of Alabama aren’t able to get out and explore the world. Because of their physical limitations or susceptibility to infection, they often times spend weeks and even months in their hospital rooms. We decided to use virtual reality technology to do something about that. In May 2016, after nearly nine months of planning, we were able to make our first visit to Children’s and take experiences to kids that let them go virtually anywhere they wanted to go and do things they never thought would be possible for them. From scuba diving to dragon riding, we took these kids far away from the hospital and far outside their limitations without ever leaving their rooms.
“The visits have been great so far. The kids have had so much fun. But it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. We’re really excited to see what we can do in the future.” - Kelly Baker, Community Engagement Coordinator, Children’s of Alabama
To date, we have visited with six children during our pilot program and had great success with each one. What we’ve discovered is that the experiences not only let the kids escape the hospital and have a little fun, they also provide a distraction when administering typically unpleasant forms of treatment. We are extremely excited about the potential healing benefits we may discover beyond just the pure entertainment value this provides. And, while we have currently only used existing content for the visits, our vision is to begin capturing custom experiences for the kids and become more of a virtual Make-a-Wish where the possibilities are truly unlimited.