University researchers are playing a key role in creating cutting-edge therapeutic spaces at the new Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

When Edinburgh’s new Royal Hospital for Sick Children (RHSC) opens in spring 2018, patients might be forgiven for thinking it’s more of a futuristic playground than a traditional centre of medicine. Dr Oli Mival from Edinburgh Napier’s School of Computing has been working with artist Alex Hamilton and AV expert Derek Kemp to create interactive projections and experiences that children and staff will be able to engage with but that will also have therapeutic benefit.

The blended spaces technology that the team is developing will be installed in treatment and rehabilitation rooms across the RHSC and Department for Clinical Neuroscience (DCN) at the hospital’s new location on the site of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary at Little France.

Within treatment rooms, a projection system will offer tailored videos to distract patients while they undergo tests, examinations or procedures. In three rehabilitation rooms, immersive, multi-sensory interactive technology will be used to entertain children but also get them moving in clinically-relevant ways that can aid rehabilitation. Gesture-based control will be used to aid physiotherapy and the suites will also boast responsive lighting.

Dr Mival of the University’s Centre for Interaction Design says: “This is evidence-based design as a result of talking to clinicians and physiotherapists.”

It is not the first time Dr Mival has teamed up with Hamilton. They previously worked together on a project at the Glasgow Child Protection Unit where help is given to children suffering from physical neglect, emotional and sexual abuse. There, they blended interactive digital augmentation, with analogue elements to relax, distract and engage children.

Like the plans for the RHSC, the child and family rooms were designed to be personalised by children through interaction with play tables and digital projections – they can control the lighting, colour palette and soundtrack through simple gestures such as clapping, pointing and waving.

Dr Mival noted: "It's been sobering work but a wonderful opportunity to bring interaction design into the world of clinical environments and really make a difference to the patient experience."

A room with mood lighting - literally

Final designs and testing for the RHSC project will be aided by Edinburgh Napier’s new Sensorium studio – a room so smart that it can track where you look, how you feel and what you’re thinking, all in real-time.

One of the most advanced facilities of its kind in Europe, the Sensorium is a high-end user experience (UX) and usability evaluation environment which records and analyses people’s emotional, cognitive and physical responses to digital experiences in real time.

Biometric technology enables facial expression tracking, the measurement of micro expressions and has the ability to identify when people are lying. Combined with the use of Philips colour temperature lighting, the room will be able to change colour depending on the emotions it picks up – for example it could turn the lighting red when it detects that the overall emotion in the room is anger.

Scotland's attractions given global exposure

In February 2017, VisitScotland launched a ground-breaking virtual reality travel experience which immerses web users in Scotland’s remarkable attractions – and it was all down to a team at Edinburgh Napier.

The concept for the ScotlandVR app, which allows people to virtually explore famous sites such as Edinburgh Castle and Skara Brae, was created by a team at the University led by Dr Oli Mival and Professor David Benyon. They then worked with creative agency Whitespace to develop the final app for VisitScotland.

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said: “A team from Edinburgh Napier University developed the concept for this app, which demonstrates the pioneering spirit and ingenuity of Scotland’s academic, technology and tourism sectors.”

Preview the new app here