Thursday December 1st, 2016

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The Jim Harbaugh Foundation announced on Monday its initiative to bring the Big House, home of the University of Michigan football team, to life for sick kids at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.

A $50,000 from the Foundation to jumpstart the new Harbaugh Fund will now bring virtual reality experiences of Michigan Stadium to patients.

Through the Michigan VR app, which the athletic department launched last August as the first school to embrace the new technology, kids can take a virtual journey through the Big House and experience behind-the-scenes content of game day and facilities. They’ll journey alongside players as they run through Michigan Stadium, hang out with the the band and cheerleaders and also hear from coach Harbaugh inside the football locker room.

According to J.J. Bouchard, Mott certified child life specialist and patient technology coordinator, the “possibilities are endless” with virtual reality.

“New virtual reality apps are being developed every day that let kids visit faraway places, see extinct animals and even go to space. The viewers are a fantastic new tool that make it easier for kids to have these ‘out of hospital’ experiences,” he said in a statement.

“The new technology has really opened our eyes to a whole new way of engaging with and serving our patients. For kids who are stuck in a hospital room or have physical limitations that prevent them from doing some of these activities in real life, virtual world experiences can really enhance their therapy.”

The new fund will cover the cost of cardboard viewers as children and teens can select from a variety of apps via their smartphones. In 2016, the C.S. Mott has integrated other forms of technology throughout the hospital, including installing Xboxes in every patient room and making available other virtual and augmented reality programs.

For example, locally-based GameStart worked with the Child Life team to give young patients an opportunity to experience roller coasters, submarines and other virtual worlds with Oculus Rift headsets, allowing them an escape from the day-to-day life of being in a hospital.

“Kids who spend long periods of time in hospital rooms often feel isolated and cut off from friends and social worlds,” said Daniel Fischer, director of the Child and Family Life Department at Mott. “Our Child Life team is constantly looking for fun and engaging opportunities that help connect families to the outside world.

“We are thankful to the Jim Harbaugh Foundation for supporting programs that help reduce anxiety and stress for children and families and make them feel as comfortable as possible while here.”

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