Digital aquarium calms young patients at Alder Hey

In an exciting world first, Sony created a colorful digital aquarium that helps soothe anxious children awaiting surgery at Alder Hey in the Park—one of the world’s largest most technologically innovative children’s hospitals.

How we helped
The Challenge
  • Alder Hey in the Park is one of the world’s leading hospitals dedicated to the treatment and care of children
  • Visiting hospital can be a stressful experience for young people and their families
  • Alder Hey required a digital solution to help entertain and reassure children while waiting for surgery
The Solution
  • Three BRAVIA Professional Displays create a 5m x 1m ‘virtual fishtank’ to soothe and entertain apprehensive children
  • Undersea world is controlled by the children using a tablet interface, developed by Sony’s interactive team
  • BRAVIA displays also feature in other hospital areas including lobby and waiting rooms
The Outcome
  • Children and their families visiting Alder Hey can be calmed when interacting with a colourful undersea world as they wait for consultations and treatment
  • Bright, energy-efficient BRAVIA displays offer beautiful, high contrast images that can be seen clearly, even in strong daylight in the waiting room
Related products
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Professional displays

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Kids absolutely love the aquarium! We can use it to ‘bribe’ children who are reluctant to have their measurements taken and get ready for surgery. So we say to them ‘if you do this for us, you can make your own fish’ – and they do it straight away! So it significantly improves our workflow and it can boost overall hospital efficiency.

Dr Iain Hennessey
Clinical Director of Innovation at Alder Hey

children in front of Digital Aquarium at Alder hey.

Helping manage patient anxiety

One of the biggest challenges facing Alder Hey is moderating and dealing with patient anxiety. A visit to any hospital can be daunting for children and their parents alike. Aside from the treatment itself, there’s the additional stress caused by often lengthy periods of waiting and uncertainty for children and their families.

“When kids come in here to prepare for an operation, they don’t like having their height and weight measured and having pre-anaesthetic cream put on the back of their hands” explains Dr Iain Hennessey, Clinical Director of Innovation at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

“It’s all about perceptions. You can’t directly control pain and anxiety that influence the clinical course. But you can definitely shape the patient’s perception – and the perception of their parents – during the whole experience.”

Realising this vital dimension of patient/hospital interaction, the Sony Healthcare team introduced Alder Hey to a potential solution on the other side of the world. Located at a theme park in Kamogawa Sea World in Chiba Japan is the world’s first digital aquarium where virtual ‘fish’ move calmly around a virtual ‘tank’. Alder Hey quickly realised that this innovative solution had the exciting potential to distract and engage with young patients, helping reduce the all-too-common feelings of anxiety, stress and boredom in any hospital.

Young visitors interact with virtual aquarium

Star attraction in Alder Hey’s bright, airy surgery waiting area is a huge digital aquarium, inspired by the similar installation in Kamogawa Sea World.

Measuring 5,03m x 0,97m the virtual tank is made up three wall-mounted BRAVIA 75” Professional Displays, driven by a concealed network server.

Software developed by Sony’s PCL interactive team in Japan conjures up a magical undersea world, filled with colourful coral and teeming with exotic sea creatures.

Eager young patients can interact with the display via a tablet-style touch interface, choosing their own fish or turtle and colouring it in with choice of brushes and tools. When they’re satisfied with their handwork, each child can release their customised fish into the aquarium, watching it move effortlessly through the ‘water’ and interact with other sea creatures.

“Kids absolutely love the aquarium”, notes Iain Hennessey. “We can use it to ‘bribe’ children who are reluctant to have their measurements taken and get ready for surgery. So we say to them ‘if you do this for us, you can make your own fish’ – and they do it straight away! So it significantly improves our workflow and it can boost overall hospital efficiency.”

Young visitors interact with virtual aquarium.
Young visitors interact with virtual aquarium.

Crisp, colourful Full HD images

The trio of slim, beautifully styled BRAVIA Professional Displays brings the aquarium to life, delivering stunning HD images with superb contrast and rich, vibrant colours. Even in the bright natural daylight of the surgical waiting area, pictures are crisp, clear and packed with lifelike detail.

Each display’s ultra-thin bezel helps create the illusion of a single, seamless ‘window’. The energy efficient panel also consumes less power than previous-generation screens, reducing running costs.

“I’m really proud of what’s been achieved between Alder Hey and Sony”, says Iain Hennessey. “I think it’s a really been a model for how we work with industry partners.”

“When parents walk in through the door here with their kids, you can see they’re thinking ‘I know my child’s in the right place’. So if you’ve got the trust of the parents – and the trust of the children – you know you’re going to get a better clinical experience and a better outcome.”

More BRAVIA displays feature in other areas of the hospital, including Alder Hey’s spectacular entrance lobby, where families can consult patient listings and watch friendly cartoons on the big, bright screens as they wait for their appointment.