TOMMI: a game to feel better
By Valentino Megale: While Facebook is starting new perceptual researches into his Oculus Rift related labs to explore what and how deep virtual reality affects user’s mind status, VR is clearly opening new scenarios for medical applications and patients’ treatment. Several projects around the world are working to practically integrate these two fields, such as the VR game called TOMMI.
TOMMI is a project born in November 2016 during the first Merck hackathon in Rome in collaboration with H-Farm. During the 24h event, an Italian team of 5 people ideated it as an experience game to support the life of hospitalized children with cancer, using virtual reality and focusing on the emotional needs of the young patients and their caregivers in collaboration with the medical staff.
During the long hospitalization periods, oncological children go towards extreme stressful conditions and emotions such as loneliness, fear and anger. There are increasing scientific researches that show how this negative mind status affects the quality of the therapy, with an increased risk of disease and even slower recovery times.
Offering to the children a safe place where to distract from hospital routine, finding a way to distress and regain an emotional balance represents a holistic approach to patients able to reshape our present therapy approach.
The team behind TOMMI is designing it as a therapeutical engagement tool with a collaborative gameplay that involves not only children but also their caregivers, such as parents. Actually, parents are deeply affected by their children’s disease: their life routine is completely disrupted and they often feel unable to really help or contribute to their children’s well being. The game offers a way to play an active role in this pathway, supporting better the patient’s’ hospital experience.
The game is built based on the feedback collected from doctors, nurses, psychologists and caregivers in a way to reflect the therapy’s pathway, define its critical points and convert them into distressing digital experiences with basically two types of outcomes: a better emotional status of the children and useful medical data.
In fact, while playing at the game, every child’s reaction to game’s stimuli can be registered and collected into a database. Patient’s data could finally be analyzed and used by the medical staff to monitor the therapy, improve it and adapt to specific patient’s needs.
The project involves a close collaboration between therapy’s specialists and TOMMI developers pushing the boundaries of hospital therapies, while innovating how different expertises mix and integrate into new professional figures ready for future developments.
At the moment, TOMMI has been selected among several project into the Acceleration Program at Merck’s Innovation Center in Darmstadt, Germany. In the next 3 months the team will focus to develop the alpha version of the game, taking advantage of the great innovation ecosystem offered by Merck.