Navigating an illness in a hospital setting can induce plenty of anxiety in adults. For children, the experience can be utterly overwhelming, whether they've broken a bone or are facing treatment for something much more serious. That's where Gomo comes in.
Created by the UX and industrial designer Lily Karatzas, Gomo is an adorable stuffed toy whose face acts as a point of reference for a corresponding augmented reality app, which can project different bodily systems onto the toy. It's meant so that medical staff can explain how illnesses and treatments work on the body to preschool-age children. The Gomo prototype is metal-free, which means it can also act as a cuddly partner when young patients have to enter CAT scan or MRI machines on their own.
Karatzas knew she wanted to find a way to alleviate stress during hospitalization for children—a survey she distributed revealed that 62% of respondents had experienced anxiety during doctor visits as children. She realized that most of her respondents' best experiences had come from positive interactions with nurses and doctors. One respondent, she said, recalled that a nurse had given him a small, handmade toy car when he was hospitalized for encephalitis as a child; another's best memory of being hospitalized was when the nurse discussed The Emperor's New Groove.
Karatzas set out to design a toy that could encourage these positive interactions. To design a children's toy, Karatzas looked to characters like SpongeBob, BMO, Plankton, and EVE from WALL-E. But Gomo's face is purposefully asymmetrical so it can act as a point of reference for the augmented reality app. The Gomo app will be able to show 10 body systems, including the nervous, circulatory, respiratory, lymphatic, and muscular systems. The child can click on individual organs and move the tablet to view different angles. By projecting cartoonish anatomy using augmented reality onto the Gomo toy, medical practitioners can explain how organs function and the body is put together in a way that's educational and relatable. The children are allowed to take the toy home with them, reinforcing the positive aspects of their experience.
While Karatzas wasn't able to test Gomo with sick children because of privacy restrictions, she hopes that it may someday truly make a difference for pediatric patients. She hopes to continue developing her prototype in the future.