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A VR Game to Help Children with Cancer
The Virtual Reality game developed by TOMMI allows children with cancer to enter different worlds, distracting them from sterile hospital environments and providing moral support. TOMMI’s co-founder Valentino Megale who leads the team describes the virtual reality game as “a child’s journey through a fantasy world - a magic island where the patient is challenged with goals to achieve in order to help their digital in-game friend.”
TOMMI’s #BigBangMoment and Plans for the Future
In July 2017, TOMMI began their first usability tests in a pediatric hospital in Rome. Now, TOMMI has two letters of intent from further hospitals in Rome and Turin to start two clinical pilots in pediatric oncology in the near future. TOMMI is also discussing similar opportunities with hospitals in Houston, Texas. TOMMI’s team has grown to a total of nine people and they are working in cooperation with Merck to develop a version of the game that is ready for the market. The team plans to distribute TOMMI in Europe as well as in the US and their goal is to limit the impact of hospitalization on as many young lives as possible. Furthermore, with their startup Softcare Studios, they plan to extend the application of their model to new target groups, such as adults and elderly patients.
Making Games Accessible to Pediatric Patients
There are already numerous VR games on the market, but these typically target the average user, meaning that pediatric patients are hardly able to use them. Often, the motor skills of these patients are limited and their cognitive conditions require more attention because of their increased sensitivity to stimuli. TOMMI is built around the specific needs of pediatric patients which have been assessed through observation of direct patient experiences in hospitals, as well as academic research.
Involving Parents and Caregivers
Besides providing emotional support, TOMMI’s VR headsets can track stress-related data such as heart rate. The game also involves caregivers and parents through collaborative gaming sessions where parents use external supports in order to speak to their children and offer them help in achieving specific goals in VR. This revolutionary approach not only represents the intersection of healthcare and digital technologies, but also an opportunity to include caregivers and parents in the therapy process.
The Merck Accelerator – Apply now!
Merck is proud to have been working with TOMMI from 2016 and the feeling seems to be mutual - as Megale concludes: “Here we are, we definitely did it right and it’s been the beginning of a great journey that has changed our lives forever.” If your startup works on solutions in healthcare, life science, performance materials, or additional search fields then you could be one of the teams selected for the Merck Accelerator’s seventh round which launches in Spring 2019. Participating startups benefit from up to €50,000 of funding, office and creation space at our headquarters in Darmstadt, and access to mentors from a global network of over 50,000 Merck experts. From January 2019, startup teams will also have the chance to extend their stay in the Accelerator Program by joining the China Innovation Hub Accelerator in Shanghai. So what are you waiting for? Applications for the Merck Accelerator Program run from 2 July to 30 September 2018. You can apply now here.