Pingunauten Trainer - A Playful VR App for Kids for the Preparation for MRI Scans

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a painless, non-invasive method to look inside the body. However, the narrowness of the bore, the noise and the necessity to remain calm and motionless during the entire scan is a psychological challenge for many patients. Children in particular react often with anxiety, stress, and agitation. Thus, it is common practice to sedate younger patients to ensure image quality and diagnosis.

Our mission is to make MRI scans less threatening for children and to support their wellbeing during the scan in such a way that sedation is rendered unnecessary. To achieve this, an interdisciplinary team of computer scientists, students, and medical professionals, as well as creative designers created the “Pingunauten Trainer” (“Pingu” from German “Pinguin”, English “Penguin”; and “naut” from “Astronaut”).

The “Pingunauten Trainer” is a Virtual Reality App for smartphones, which prepares kids for MRI scans playfully. Step-by-step and with minigames, children can explore a virtual examination room and the MRI scanner itself. They learn and train how to remain calm and relaxed during a virtual true to the original MRI scan.

In late 2018, we started a multicentric long-term study with our participating partner hospitals, the University Hospital Essen (UKE) and the Kinderklinik Amsterdamer Straße Cologne. A first pilot study indicated the feasibility and effectiveness of our approach (Liszio & Masuch, 2017).

This project is part of the research project “VR-RLX - Virtual Reality-System for the Reduction of Children's Anxiety during MRI scans” founded by the European Regional Development Fund (EFRE). It is a nonprofit project for the improvement of children’s health care.

For more information, visit our project homepage pingunauten.vr-rlx.de. You want to support our work? Don’t hesitate to contact us via e-mail: pingunauten[at]vr-rlx.de!

 

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