Client: Montefiore Health System
Location: Bronx, NY, United States
Completion date: 2018
Artwork budget: $25,000
Lisa A. Frank
Lisa Frank Photography
Kenise Barnes Fine Art
Public Art Agent
Montefiore Health System
“Wonder Walk” is a virtual reality app created by Lisa A. Frank and her creative team for the Montefiore Health System. The project was specifically developed as a pain management tool for the Children’s Hospital. It's a blend of art, game and journey that can easily involve fifteen minutes of attentive exploration. For ease of use within a hospital setting, the app was developed for use with android devices. Specifically, it was designed for the Oculus mobile platform using a Gear VR headset and hand controller. The app employs a combination of 3D graphics, models, animation, video and digital paintings.
The Montefiore Health System, in partnership with artist Lisa A. Frank, is committed to uniting art, technology and medicine for the benefit of patients in the Bronx, the Hudson Valley and Westchester County. The belief that art heals was the catalyst for this commission. Virtual reality’s use in a healthcare setting has been proven to alleviate pain, stress and anxiety in pediatric and adult patients. Through VR technology and Lisa A. Frank’s artistic vision, "Wonder Walk" allows patients an escape to a magical world. Using wireless goggles, a player embarks on a virtual journey, exploring and discovering a fantastical adventure while confined to a bed, wheelchair or hospital room. By providing ample diversion and temporarily alleviating suffering, immersive experiences are the future of pain management and opioid use reduction. Frank’s team produced this VR experience, a tapestry of nature images, sounds and diverse biomes to be a transcendent experience for children and adults. The portability and accessibility of the artwork is crucial to this effort and its ability to serve the Montefiore patient population. This remarkable intersection of art and pain management signals a new direction in healthcare.
In July, 2017, Lisa Frank was contacted by Olivia Davis and Kenise Barnes about the commission of a VR app for a pain study that the Children’s Hospital was conducting.
This opportunity was formalized in November, 2017 with the following goals: The app will be designed for 8-21 year olds; it will be constructed so that multiple uses create new encounters; it will include a variety of elements that allow patients to cope with stress, pain, and boredom; finally, it should be delivered within a three month time-frame.
Computer programmer, Ross Tredinnick, began to develop Lisa’s ideas initially for Oculus Rift but was requested to shift to Gear VR. This proved to be the project’s most demanding challenge. With Android’s processing limitations, artistic goals needed to be radically pared down. Lisa worked with 4D artist, Timothy Arment, to develop artwork within the framework's limitations. Robust experimentation was required to arrive at solutions that would maximize visual complexity amidst considerable aesthetic and processing constraints.
In February the hospital received an app addressing all of the project’s goals. Fine tuning and sound were added over the following 2 months.
The team is now building an Oculus version with tremendously enhanced visuals and interactive capabilities.
Frank’s project will be part of an internal review board study focused on sickle cell, oncology, and bone marrow transplant pediatric patients. By using "Wonder Walk" to better understand neuro-experiences and pain management, we ultimately want to create a VR Pharmacy to provide innovative relief and to stem the opioid epidemic. The artist was chosen for her long commitment to healing in healthcare which has been a focus since 2011. Her development team shares this commitment and brings personal pain management experiences to the design and execution of the concept.