Immersive Theater Opens Inside the New University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital

Press Release // May 22, 2017

OVERLAND PARK, KS – Patients and their families at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital can now enjoy healing benefits and interactive adventures through a technology-based theater created by Dimensional Innovations (DI). The Kansas City-area design-and-build firm created an immersive children’s theater in the Gerdin Family Lobby of the new hospital, which opened in February 2017.

Using Microsoft Kinect technology, DI’s animation and motion graphics team designed two interactive video games specifically for the theater. The games provide healing benefits as well. Researchers at the National Children’s Medical Center in Washington D.C. found that video games can provide a distraction that aids in pain relief. Children also become more likely to push muscles they previously would not move due to pain, therefore increasing their range of motion much faster.

Additionally, a study at England’s Nottingham Trent University found that children undergoing chemotherapy did better when they played games that absorbed their attention completely. The children also required lower doses of pain medication and suffered less from hypertension and nausea than children who were just asked to rest.

The features of Nick’s Theater include:

  • Immersive 32-foot length with curved design
  • All-age and wheelchair accessibility for multiple players
  • Responsive to the movements of four users

What I really love about this space, especially as a child life specialist, is that it’s adaptable for people of all ages, abilities, and disabilities,

Erin Draminski, Child Life Specialist at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital

She also noted that the theater helps children who’ve long been confined to a room to slowly work their way back into a public setting. The interactive games help them forget that they’re away from their room and being an active child again.

The “Eagles’ Flight” game designed by DI allows participants to start in Iowa and then use their arms to control a bird flying across the United States seeing Mount Rushmore and other landmarks along the way. “Story in the Stars” brings three original stories to life as constellations in the night sky. As users experience a story, they can interact with on-screen hot-spots to reveal animated elements filling each scene. This game has four unique voice overs, so that children get a slightly different experience each time they interact with the game.

Other installations created by DI include interactive donor walls, a history space with informational plaques and custom exhibits, and a mobile art projection display.

The theater allows family members and children - who might have long-term hospital stays - a chance to escape to another world, to fly away temporarily. And since the theater responds to the children’s subtle movements, it gives them a sense of control, something they often miss during their hospital stay.

Curtis Walker - DI Technology Director

About Dimensional Innovations

We are an experiential design firm that creates and builds immersive and interactive brand experiences. Combine a team of graphic designers and brand strategists with architects and animators, then take interior, interactive and environmental designers and connect them to a team of digital engineers, throw in an innovation lab, then bolt on a workshop where we can build just about anything and, well, you’ve got us.

Together, we are designers, makers and innovators of world-class experiences, places and products.