An augmented reality bear helps young CHOC patients through MRIs – Orange County Register
Choco, the lovable mascot of the Children’s Health of Orange County, or CHOC, is help guide the young patients through a key medical procedure, making it less scary for them and more educational for adults.
The CHOC bear is the star of the hospital’s new augmented reality app, staying with patients through a magnetic resonance imaging procedure every step of the way.
Commonly known as an MRI, the procedure is used in radiology to produce images of the anatomy, enabling doctors to check for certain conditions.
While noninvasive, the procedure can still induce fear in patients, who are required to lay flat and perfectly still while encircled in a large, and often loud, tube for up to two hours.
MRI with Choco is still in its pilot phase, but is expected to be launched widely soon.
Upon entering the CHOC radiology lobby, the patient will be given an iPad with the augmented reality app.
When the child presses play, “Lucy,” welcomes the patient by introducing them to Choco, who then begins calming their fears about the procedure by combining games with practical information to help children better understand the procedure.
Choco also introduces the patient to each member of the MRI team, defining their roles.
“The more prepared you are when it comes to imaging services, especially in pediatrics, the more prepared the patient is and the more likely they are to get through the exam and not move,” said Andrew Ruiz, CHOC’s director of imaging services. “For us to be able to get the highest quality imaging, I think that is one of the more important aspects of this that we focused in on.”
The other benefit, said Ruiz, is that the app helps educate the parents or the caregivers before they bring their child to the procedure.
When the patient is in the prep room, an animated Choco – who through augmented reality appears alive before them – shows the child the gown they are going to change into.
Under-the-sea themed artwork lines the walls of the radiology department and when the patient walks down the hall looking through the app, whales come off the wall and swim around the room.
The patient can search for hidden Choco bears and in one interactive game, the patient can wave a metal detector to check if Choco has any metal items. There can be no metal in an MRI room.
In one scene, Choco himself undergoes an MRI.
While using MRI with Choco, the patient will see a sandcastle framing the entrance to the MRI suite and hear the sounds of surf hitting the shore.
Another entrance way is ringed by a pink donut for swimming.
After the MRI, Choco and the patient celebrate the successful completion of the procedure.
“It benefits the patients overall, and it benefits the technologists as well, because it helps prepare the child so they are not moving or they are not anxious or claustrophobic,” Ruiz said. “And the trifecta is that it better prepares the parent on what is about it happen.”
Augmented reality software integrates digital visual content into the user’s real-world environment.
The software became widely used about six years ago when the mobile game Pokeman Go sent millions of players wondering through neighborhoods searching for virtual creatures.
The team at CHOC’s Sharon Disney Lund Medical Intelligence and Innovation Institute (MI3), which designs, creates and institutes innovation projects in pediatric medicine, partnered on the app with EON Reality, a virtual reality and augmented reality software developer based in Irvine.
Ruby Yoo, 6, has undergone several MRIs at CHOC since being diagnosed at age 2 with neuroblastoma.
She was among the first patients who used the MRI with Choco app, said her father Jeff Yoo, the director of partnerships, insights and events in CHOC’s marketing and communications department.
“She went through the module and loved it,” Yoo said. “It was a great experience especially compared to previous MRIs that she had done.”
Ruby will have her next scan in a year, after being clear of the cancer for four years.
“In a weird way, my daughter likes coming to CHOC now,” Yoo said. “The staff is fantastic and the way they interact with the kids is always great, but this kind of brought that next level of being able to bring some understanding and education, but in a fun way. It kept her engaged. “
This content was originally published here.