Administering pediatric injections can be very challenging as children are often highly reluctant to receive them. This is usually due to fear and anticipation of pain, stemming from the sight of the sharp needle.
This was a solo project completed as part of
a class called 'VR For Palliative Care.'
Investigate how VR can distract children while they receive injections.
UNDERSTANDING THE USER
The research process began as a whole class with a talk from a pediatric oncology patient.
The patient began by describing their own experience with injections, which they receive frequently as part of their chemotherapy treatment. For them, the process is 3-4 minutes long, including cleaning the area, letting it dry, and dressing it afterward. The injection is also administered with a cluster of needles as it is used to insert a port into their chest, through which the chemotherapy treatment is given. In their case, the process can be very painful, especially if the person doing it misses on the first go.
They also described their observations of other children receiving more traditional injections. They said that the process is usually 1.5 minutes long and that the anticipation is usually worse than the actual pain. It would, therefore, be most helpful to design a virtual experience that is highly removed from reality.
BREAKING DOWN THE PROCESS
I began the ideation process by looking at some other
VR experiences designed for pediatric injections, before synthesizing all of the research data and generating a design hypothesis, sketches and moving into implementation.
The goal of this project is to create a short experience that can be used to distract young children (probably between 5 and 8) while they are receiving injections.
From general personal experience, and following the interview with the pediatric oncology patient, it would appear that the largest issue is the sight and anticipation
of the needle, rather than actual pain.
I, therefore, seek to create a very happy, calming, far-removed environment that will completely take users away from the situation at hand.
Although I want users to be immersed in the world, I want to limit the interaction
and input from the user as children of that age are likely to move around quite a bit, especially if they are highly engrossed in the experience, and this could make the process longer and more difficult for the person administering the injection.
The VR controllers may also be quite large and heavy for users of that age,
and also take a while to get used to, which is probably not worthwhile for such a short procedure. I, therefore, want to make the experience as passive as possible,
as well as allowing the user to get the full experience while sitting or lying fairly still.
My proposal is the make a field scene, with hills in the background.
The ground will have a grass texture and flowers, and there will be butterflies flying around, which users are likely to reach out and grab, but without the complication of having to “catch” them with controllers.
There will also be a blue skybox and calming music in the background.
Pivot & Final Product
After I began building implementing my initial garden scene idea, I decided to alter the concept, as I felt that the affordances of the hilly garden terrain invited the user to want to walk around and catch the butterflies. This was problematic as I wanted to keep the user entertained, but also as stationary as possible so that the injection could be administered as smoothly as possible.
I decided to create a "lotus garden" instead, as I felt that the bold colors, along with calming music and a little bit of animation, would be enough to keep the user engaged, without them wanting to walk through the landscape. To make the experience more immersive, I also animated the camera, so that the user would fly through the scene and view it from different angles.
The scene was largely built from prefabricated assets, which I then arranged,
edited, re-colored, and animated myself. The background music was extracted from this YouTube video.
A video walkthrough of the experience can be found below.
During this project, I learned how to use Unity and how to develop an effective user experience in the context of virtual reality.
I also gained more experience in primary user research and discovered a lot of new things about healthcare regarding pediatrics, oncology, and injections.