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‘Chip’, a virtual squirrel, helps to welcome kids at Surrey Memorial’s children’s centre

Innovative AR app helps kids become familiar with the centre

Meet “Chip,” the new virtual pet at Surrey Memorial Hospital’s children centre.

The Surrey Hospitals Foundation recently worked with Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Studio in Seattle to create the My Hospital Pal app as part of its efforts to renew the children’s health centre.

The app features “Chip,” an augmented reality squirrel to help “kids become familiar with the hospital setting in a fun, interactive, and kid-friendly way.”

“We’ve all seen the tremendous success and popularity of the augmented reality videogame Pokémon Go, so when the opportunity came up to leverage the technological innovation and power of AR in our Children’s Health Centre, we literally ‘leapt’ at the chance,” said Jane Adams, President & CEO of the SHF.

“Investing in innovations has always been one of the Foundation’s missions, and as part of our renewal project, we introduced a kid-friendly woodlands décor theme for our new Children’s Health Centre, so ‘Chip’ the AR squirrel is a great fit for our new space.”

AR is a real-time, interactive experience with a person’s natural environment that is enhanced with computer generated 3D images superimposed onto real-world objects.

The hospitals foundation said the idea to have a virtual pet as part of the hospital orientation was inspired by Dr. Amir Behboudi, an emergency room doctor with Fraser Health.

Nikala MacLean, clinical operations manager at the children’s centre, said the app is “engaging and fun” and provides helpful information to those visiting the hospital.

“Families are presented with a QR code to download the app on their devices, so that children may interact with ‘Chip’ who will guide them through the hospital setting and share what to expect during their visit.”

The foundation says it worked with the children’s health centre’s steering committee and Microsoft to develop the content of the app, as well as character creation, design, voice and 3D animation. It’s launching with three greetings that are accessed by scanning various acorn images throughout the centre.

The first phase of the program is being rolled out for children coming into the ambulatory surgical daycare department.

Through community donors, the Surrey Hospitals Foundation raised $6 million to extensively renovate the children’s health centre, adding a new pre-and-post surgery unit, a renewed cancer treatment space for kids, increasing to 15 rooms for outpatient clinics, all with a whimsical woodland theme which inspired the design of Chip.

READ ALSO: Story surrounding new playground at Surrey hospital a real ‘tear-jerker’, Sept. 14, 2018

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Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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