OCAD University

Screenplay contributes to kids’ healing


Children playing with Screenplay.

Children playing with Screenplay at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto. Photo: Kathy Foisey.
Last week, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital launched its new interactive children's waiting room experience, called Screenplay. The project is the culmination of several months research and collaboration between hospital researchers and OCAD U's third- and fourth-year Faculty of Design students.

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital is Canada's largest children's rehabilitation hospital serving, 7,000 children each year with over 58,000 outpatient visits.

Part of a multi-year research study, the challenge was to develop non-pharmaceutical strategies to mitigate anxiety and create waiting spaces that are truly part of a healing environment. Waiting in a doctor's office or hospital can be a very stressful and fearful experience for children and their families. Some pediatric waiting rooms provide toys to distract children and relieve anxiety and boredom. Traditional toys, however, can spread infections when handled and are often not accessible to children with disabilities.

Children playing on the interactive floor that makes up Screenplay.
Children of all abilities can enjoy playing on the interactive floor and image projections, which react to their movements. Photo: Kathy Foisey.  

Researchers at Holland Bloorview, with contributions from OCAD U students, have developed a responsive environment that enables children and adults of all abilities to interact together to create and transform images projected onto a wall-sized screen controlled by a pressure-sensitive floor, in the main clinic waiting area at the hospital.

OCAD U's students, under the guidance of Associate Professor Geoffrey Shea, were challenged to create several different interactions that each fulfilled the overall objectives:

  • to provide opportunities for mastery and control over one's environment and, at the same time, the preservation and expression of identity;
  • to provide activities and affordances that celebrate abilities, rather than creating or reinforcing disabilities; and
  • to provide occasions for low-intensity exploration, discovery, distraction and delight, which support the transition from waiting area to appointment.

"Creating Screenplay was a great opportunity for our students to work with a public-sector organization on a project that both gives our students real-world experience, as well as showcases how art and design can positively impact the quality of healthcare," said Shea.

Ken Leung's Magical Forest imagery for Screenplay.
A rendering of student Ken Leung's design for Magical Forest. The trees and plants grow and change colour depending on how long the children stay in one place on the interactive floor.

Elaine Biddiss, Ken Leung and Geoffrey Shea at the launch of Screenplay.

Elaine Biddiss, Ken Leung and Geoffrey Shea at the launch of Screenplay. Photo: Kathy Foisey.

"We wanted this space to be interactive, allowing children to exert big and beautiful changes to their environment," said Elaine Biddiss, Professor at the University of Toronto's Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and Scientist at the Holland Bloorview Research Institute. "We envisioned a blank ‘canvas' where children could create a unique impression and contribute to a collective artwork. We desired the space to celebrate abilities rather than create or reinforce disabilities, and we aspired towards an environment that enabled every child to interact and play in some way."

The installation boasts a pressure-sensitive floor comprised of 100 tiles which allow children, standing or sitting, to create large projections on a wall-sized glass screen. Projection film is then applied to the glass wall from a ceiling-mounted projector. Calibrated from their movements, projection film is then applied to the glass wall from a ceiling-mounted projector.

Children enjoying Screenplay.
Photo: Kathy Foisey.

For Biddiss, the installation originated from the "inverted" logic that helps serve the children it was designed to engage the most - children with severe disabilities and mobility issues - even as it keeps active, able-bodied children calm, stationary and engaged. "The longer you stay in one spot, the bigger the projection," Biddiss explains, allowing those with the least amount of mobility to create the largest images. The floor also promotes collaborative learning: multiple children can play together on the floor to create wall-sized forests, for instance.

A rendering for Screenplay that features microorganisms.
Another rendering from Screenplay, called Microorganisms, by student Maggie Chiu Yee Chan.

"I am absolutely impressed with the quality, the enthusiasm, and the passion with which the OCAD U students have embraced this project," said Biddiss. "They have really immersed themselves in the spirit of Holland Bloorview and the needs of our clients and organization.

The students' ideas have been incredibly beautiful and above and beyond my expectations. The concepts they have created have many layers of complexity that reflect the depth of thought that the students poured into them."

Congratulations to everyone involved, including our students Adam Oliver, Alan Lau, Dave Dowhaniuk, Evi K. Hui, Jenifer Harrison, Josh Nelson, Ken Leung, Lucian Timofte, Luodan Xu, Maggie Chiu Yee Chan, Monserrat Rivera and Stewart Shum, and their assistants Steve Reaume and Rob King.

Watch CTV's Lifetime segment, which covered the launch event.

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