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AR App Helping Child Cancer Patients Cope with Anxiety


picture of characters in appThe Paediatric Brain Tumor Foundation’s app is bringing imaginary friends to life in hospitals and cancer treatment centers.

A three-eared rabbit stands on Bridgette Czarnecki’s hospital bed. He playfully wiggles his ear and adjusts his yellow bow tie.

You’re stronger than you know,” he tells the 8-year-old. “I wish I was that strong.”

A flying pink-haired cow swoops in, pirouetting in the air. “Believe in yourself,” she says in a gentle voice. “I sure do.”

Nearby a friendly green monster smiles and waves. “Never give up, kid. Never give up.”

They’re all part of the Imaginary Friend Society, and they are exactly as billed: a figment of the imagination. For Czarnecki, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in November 2017, they were a welcome distraction from the stress and anxiety of MRIs and chemotherapy while she was treated at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles through February.

Czarnecki summoned the characters from a touchscreen above her hospital bed and the Imaginary Friend Society app developed by the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. The app uses augmented reality, which overlays digital images on top of what you’re seeing in the real world.

It makes me feel happy,” Czarnecki tells me.

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