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Game helps Australian burns sufferers -

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Game helps Australian burns sufferers

Reporter: Genevieve Hussey

KERRY O'BRIEN: Children who suffer serious burns face an often long and painful recovery that
requires daily dressing of their wounds. But now, an Australian innovation is easing that pain.
It's the ultimate distraction: a portable, hand-held virtual reality game, the principle of which
could have a much wider application. And it's attracting overseas attention. Genevieve Hussey

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: For the past two months, 10-year-old Michael Loof has had to make a regular
journey he dreads: travelling with his father, Brad, to the Burns Unit at Brisbane's Royal
Children's Hospital after an accident left him with a third-degree burn on his right leg.

MICHAEL LOOF: I was riding my little motorbike. I hit this hole in the grass and I went off and the
bike fell on me and burnt my leg.

BRAD LOOF, FATHER: It was quite a bad burn. The skin was really wrinkled and it was quite a big
burn. Luckily, they only had to graft half the burn.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: At the hospital, he faces a painful procedure: his burn's dressing needs to be

DR JONATHAN MOTT, BRISBANE ROYAL CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: As you can imagine, that can be quite a
painful procedure. The burns then have to be washed and cleaned and new dressings applied. And if
it's a significant burn or a new burn, they often end up in a bathtub with an anti-septic bathtub
and, of course, that can be very painful in children that have burns.

BRAD LOOF: Yeah, he was fidgety and moving around the bed a bit, even with the Panadol. Yeah, it
looked pretty painful.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: But now a new augmented virtual reality game - the first portable device of its
type in the world - is helping make this painful experience that little bit easier.

DR JONATHAN MOTT: This is a new version of virtual reality called 'Augmented Virtual Reality',
where the child starts playing with the game and becomes involved with the game and, therefore,
isn't paying much attention to what's going on in the dressing.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: The hospital has been taking part in a major trial to see whether children who
play the game feel less pain during the procedure, and the results have been surprisingly good.

DR JONATHAN MOTT: The results show that there is a significant drop in the levels of pain recorded
by children and by their parents, who describe how their children went through the process, when
they're using the device compared to children who haven't been able to use it.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: For Brad Loof, the difference has been obvious. What difference did you notice
once he had the game to play?

BRAD LOOF: He sort of was distracted. He sort of was more focused on the game than what the nurse
was actually doing.

MICHAEL LOOF: When I have a go on the game, it doesn't hurt anymore.


MICHAEL LOOF: It just takes me off like the pain. Like, when the nurse is undressing it, like I'm
not feeling it because, like, I'm focusing on the game.

child to pick up - just quickly in.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: The game was developed at the Centre for Interaction Design in Brisbane.

ASSOC. PROF. SAM BUCOLO: A lot of kids don't want to put it down; they just want to grab it and
say, "Hey, this is mine. Leave me. Let me have more time on this."

REPORTER: Is that the part of it, too, because they have to come back again and again, don't they?

ASSOC. PROF. SAM BUCOLO: Very much so. So, we are seeing this, you know, a couple of times a week a
child might have to use this.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: While virtual reality devices using goggles and a large machine have been
trialled in hospitals overseas, they're often not suitable for small children, who make up the
majority of burns patients. Half of the burns patients at Brisbane's Royal Children's Hospital are
under three. Even the very young can use this game. There are no buttons to push. By tipping and
turning the device, the player can move around the virtual world.

ASSOC. PROF. SAM BUCOLO: The main thing here is we've got 20 minutes to engage the child. They
don't have any learning, they have no pre-conceptions of what this is. They come in, they are quite
stressed, they are given this device, they turn it on and it has to be able to be used. There is no
learning, there's no time for a manual and they really only have that 20-minute space.

DR JONATHAN MOTT: This is more immersive, which involves more of the senses than simply playing a
video game and it's proactive. At all stages, the child is in control of the device and of the game
that they are playing.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: The second phase of the trial is now under way with a more advanced version of
the game. Doctors are trialling a small set of virtual reality goggles for older children.

DR JONATHAN MOTT: Well, the ultimate aim of this would be to have waterproof, wireless devices with
no cords that can be taken to any department in the hospital where a child is about to undergo a
painful procedure or is in a strange environment or is upset.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: And there has already been interest from hospitals in the United States where the
game has been on show. Its developers say its potential is enormous.

ASSOC. PROFESSOR SAM BUCOLO:We believe it can actually go horizontally into other areas like
radiology or oncology, dentistry potentially, and in other areas such as adults as well because
this is very much the first consumer device for diversionary therapy.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: Michael Loof is now well on the road to recovery. His father believes the virtual
reality game has made that recovery so much easier.

BRAD LOOF, FATHER: I think it's brilliant. You don't have to use Panadol and if you don't have to
use the medicine, it's even better. So, no, it's really good and they get a bit of enjoyment out of
it as well.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: The 10-year-old still has months of treatment ahead of him and there will be
special bandages for at least the next 12 months, but his goal of getting back on his bike is
within sight.

MICHAEL LOOF: I have to wear this garment and I got to choose the colours of the stitching and the
colour of it, and I have to wear that for 12 months.

GENEVIEVE HUSSEY: And what about bike riding? Are you going to ride your bike again?

MICHAEL LOOF: Yep, definitely.