Kids in virtual world of wonder

Iain McFadyen sends one of the young patients to a magical virtual world.
Iain McFadyen sends one of the young patients to a magical virtual world.

Reality may not be fun for some kids in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, but a chain of opticians in the Borders has provided them with a way to virtually take their minds off it.

Iain McFadyen, who is a store director at Specsavers in Douglas Bridge, has conducted a virtual reality trial at the hospital, with the young patients becoming the first in Scotland to experience the headsets.

He has built a custom-made computer that links up to virtual reality headsets, giving the children the chance to escape real life and delve into a new virtual world.

The headsets have the ability to send young patients on thrilling adventures into space, explore shipwrecks or fly into magical castles, and can be used individually or linked with separate monitors to allow the children’s families and friends to join in.

Iain hopes the programme will relieve children’s worries in stressful situations and bring a fun activity that they can enjoy, along with their parents.

He told The Southern: “I have been working on this project for over a year so I’m thrilled that the children are now able to experience the virtual reality headsets.

“In order for the sessions to be accessible for limited mobility and bed-bound children at the hospital, I built a custom portable computer in a suitcase that works with the Oculus and Vive headsets.

“We are excited that now, through virtual reality, the children will get the chance to visit space, go underwater and hang out with robots and dinosaurs.

“The response has been amazing and we are adding new experiences constantly.”

Working in partnership with the Edinburgh’s Children’s Hospital Charity, Iain’s colleagues in Specsavers stores across the east of Scotland have made a collective contribution to help fund the equipment, which allows patients to become completely submerged into the virtual reality world.