• Thu, Nov 15 2012

Web Kittens Help Hospitalized Kids Interact With Animals In Real Time, Everyone Say ‘Awwww!’

Seattle Children’s hospital is using kitty webcams to let kids who have immunities too low to physically interact with animals have a chance to play with kittens, rabbits and puppies in an online “playroom.” Awwwww! I love when technology is used in such innovative ways to help kids who are suffering from terminal illnesses and studies show that kids exposed to animals can ameliorate the effects and aftereffects of trauma.

Cnet explains how the virtual animal playtime will work:

They’ll do so via a live interface set up by Seattle Children’s and Boise, Idaho-based Reach-in, which created the interactive technology that lets remote viewers control fluffy robotic cat toys in real time. It’s not the same as holding a furry friend, but it might be the next best thing for these kids, some of whom must remain in total isolation while they battle cancer.

“That’s why this project is so neat and special — it will allow for pet interactions with a variety of animals in a way that is fun, safe, and is personal for them,” Helen Kathryn Sernett of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation said in a statement. Open Lab Idaho, a community of hackers and makers, also helped set up the project.

patients from toddlers to young adults will be able to interact with kittens at the Idaho Humane Society, and cats, bunnies, and other animals at the Humane Society of Dallas Texas. Remote-controlled toys at the facilities are attached to motors; buttons on a browser make them skip and jump.

The kids will also be able to control a minisubmarine to figure out clues to locate a sunken ship in the game Dive Commmander, whose aquatic environment features live fish.

Seattle Children’s Hospital is known for connecting ill kids with animals, in August of this year it asked Facebook users to submit photographs of their cats for a young patient who was missing her own cat after being hospitalized with a lengthy bone marrow post-transplant treatment.Three thousand submissions later, the hospital created the “Cat Immersion” project to help the young patient in the healing processes. The installation was projected in a tent over her hospital bed.

I think all of these programs are so amazing. I can’t imagine what parents go through when their child is diagnosed with a severe illness and I’m sure that programs like these help to take the kid’s minds off endless rounds of treatments and examinations, being separated from their homes and pets while undergoing lengthy hospital stays. Letting the kids interact with animals gives the kids something to look forward to and a chance to forget being sick for a little while.

(photo: mdmmikle/shutterstock)

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  • meteor_echo

    I think that this is outright amazing! Love the technology behind it, too!