The Virti team is packed with innovators, creatives, engineers and designers, and they’re all overflowing with ideas on how to make the world a better place! We wanted to create an opportunity for some of these ambitions to bear fruit, so in 2020 we launched Virti Jams.
These week-long, company-wide events now take place four times per year, and provide an opportunity for every team member to pursue a passion project aligned to the Virti mission and values.
On the final day of the fast-paced week of designing and building, the groups present their projects to one another, receive constructive feedback and vote on their favourite idea.
The winning project from March’s Jam was the Bedside Buddy program, built by Virti’s Charlie Parkin, Digital Content Specialist, and Søs Hejselbæk, Product Designer. In this blog, Charlie and Søs explain the inspiration behind their Bedside Buddy tool, and share some of the lessons that they learnt from participating (and winning the audience award) in their very first Virti Jam.
What is the Bedside Buddy, and how did you come up with the idea?
Søs: Put simply, Bedside Buddy is a tamagotchi-style AR virtual buddy intended to comfort and support children undergoing inpatient treatment in hospital. It can be accessed on a tablet or mobile device, and pre-programmed with special messages and treatment-specific information by the child’s doctor and parents.
Being all alone on a hospital ward is a stressful experience for anyone, but especially for children who don’t really understand what’s happening to them. The Bedside Buddy is there for them to interact with in the run up to and during their hospital stay, as a source of reassurance and distraction. The child can play minigames, send chat messages, keep track of their treatment schedule, or redeem reward coins at a ‘shop’, all within the Bedside Buddy app.
Charlie: I was actually inspired by a brief that Texas Children’s Hospital put out for a hackathon last year: the challenge was to apply XR to ‘reimagine the doctor patient experience of the future’. This got me thinking about how XR could help young children get through the confusing and frightening experience of being in hospital away from their families.
We couldn’t participate in the event at the time, but the Bedside Buddy idea stuck with me and I was pretty excited about it. The Jam provided the perfect environment to bring it to life.
How did you use the Jam week to develop your idea?
Søs: I got straight to work on the designing for the app, a key part of which was creating the animal characters that the whole concept revolved around. I deliberately chose a style that was geometric, rounded, oversized, playful and - importantly - fun.
Charlie: Whilst Søs was working on the design, I built the animations and created the music for the app. By the end of the week, we’d mocked up the app interface and created a short demonstrative video, which you can watch here.
What did you learn from this experience? Were there any valuable outcomes for your ongoing Virti projects?
Charlie: We definitely took a lot of useful lessons away from the Jam week. For example, we found a program called Lottie that was brilliant for building slick animations directly into the app, with far deeper motion graphics potentials than the previous tool we were using.
Søs: We also hit a few stumbling blocks during the design process which we were able to reflect on and learn from. The central takeaway here was to keep in mind the requirements and limitations of your chosen framework and programming language right from the start of the design process. On the same lines, we learnt the importance of checking package compatibility throughout the build process - including audio players and graphics packages.
Charlie: Overall, the Jam was a fantastic opportunity to stretch our skills in a different direction and to introduce some healthy disruption to our normal workflows. The whole week was super high energy, and it was a real pleasure to work alongside colleagues I hadn’t collaborated with before. Bring on the next Jam!