Augmented Reality with Choco the Bear Comforts Children During MRIs

April 25, 2022

// By Cheryl L. Serra //

Children’s Hospital of Orange County makes having an MRI feel like an adventurous day near the sea.

Imagine a child you love is not feeling well. They have seemingly ceaseless appointments at unfamiliar places — hospitals or healthcare facilities with all their starched efficiency, forms, and strangers — to be examined by yet more strangers.


Andrew Ruiz, CHOC director of imaging services

Often, it’s rinse and repeat, more tests. One of these tests, the MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, entails the child being swallowed inside a piece of large and very noisy equipment, alone. Here, they must lie completely still for anywhere from the half hour to two-and-a-half hours necessary to perform the procedure. Some young patients may have up to a dozen MRI orders.

It would be daunting for anyone, but especially for a child.

But developers at Children’s Health of Orange County (CHOC), a pediatric healthcare system in Southern California, have used technology to make the MRI experience more comforting, engaging, and fun for children and their families.

Launched as a pilot in November 2021, the first module of an augmented reality app is the first of many modules incorporating the technology that will soon be implemented across CHOC locations, according to CHOC’s director of imaging services, Andrew Ruiz.

The first module, “MRI with Choco,” named after the beloved health system’s bear mascot, allows young users to interact with computer-generated visuals and sounds within a real-world environment to understand the MRI process.

An MRI that feels like a relaxing day at the beach with friends? Stay tuned for the full story about this reimagined patient experience.

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