U.K. hospital uses 360-degree video to reassure kids ahead of MRI scans

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Liz West / Flickr (Creative Commons)
Virtual reality and 360-degree video can allow people to experience things that would be otherwise impossible, like getting an up-close view of the Super Bowl, or exploring a floating village. However, these technologies can also be used to give people a preview of something they’re going to experience in real life, as evidenced by a project being implemented at King’s College Hospital in London, England.

MRI physicist Jonathan Ashmore observed that children who needed to undergo an MRI scan were often very anxious about the process. When he received a 360-degree camera as a gift, he decided to give patients a way to become familiar with the procedure before doing it for real.

Ashmore put the camera inside the scanner to gather footage, before collaborating with Jerome Di Pietro to turn his work into an app. Now, anyone that’s preparing for an appointment with an MRI scanner can use a VR headset or a mobile device to preview the experience.

The app helps children prepare themselves to keep completely still for the duration of the procedure, which is required for a successful scan. It also helps familiarize them with the loud tapping noises caused by the electric current in the machine’s scanner coils being turned on and off, which often upset younger patients.

“I was really worried before my first scan because I didn’t know what to expect, even though my dad explained I couldn’t imagine what it would be like,” said Matthew Down, a 10-year-old who trialed the app. “I think that the app is really helpful as it shows you what to expect and it really feels like you are inside the machine.”

The My MRI at King’s app is available now from the Google Play Store for Android devices, and will soon be available on iOS devices via the App Store.

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