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What Is The Trust Project
Children in extended hospital stays are not just afflicted by illnesses; they often have to grapple with the stress, and even anxiety, that comes from a battery of tests and treatments. Therapeutic play that encourages such children to express themselves and to maintain social and emotional bonds with others can enhance the recovery process of these children.
To this end, the NTU GameLAB of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and SMARTLab UK of the University of the Arts London (UAL) have developed possibly the world's first multi-purpose haptic chair system for children's hospital environments. NASA in the US also has a haptic chair system but theirs is configured for astronaut training.
The SMARTlab's long term collaboration with haptics and robotics researchers including Dr Brian Duffy- creator of the Haptic Chair System known formally as the ActiveChair - allowed a team of UK and Irish researchers to bring their game and interfaces for further development in Singapore. The TRUST game - created by Dr Lizbeth Goodman and in development for the past three years with a team of collaborating institutions worldwide – has been customized for use by children in Singapore in the past 3 months. The game exploits game technology to present children between the ages of eight and 13 with virtual worlds that unfold before them on the screen of the system. The system employs a game engine and an associated software framework. The chair per se is pneumatically operated and consequently 'active'. It has a haptic interface that is synchronized and congruent with game play. A series of input devices for the hands, legs and/or feet to activate movement, sound and even music is provided. For those who are unable to move their limbs, the system can also be operated by the patient using voice and breath.
The chair system is thus configured to empower child patients to manipulate an integrated immersive experience through the virtual worlds of TRUST, in which children in hospital wards, and also young people with physical disabilities, can run and play freely.
Because the TRUST game's ActiveChair interface can also be networked with other models of the system over the internet, users in different parts of the country and even in different countries can also share virtual worlds, and express themselves and interact with others through play. Much more than a distraction, the TRUST game contributes to the improvement of child patients in many realms -- psychological, social and emotional -- as a simple aid in the management of his or her illness or disability.
Says the Director of NTU GameLAB, Assoc Prof Tony Chan, "The NTU GameLab is pleased to utilise our expertise and resources in game technology to realise possibly a unique world-first with which we hope will bring joy to infirmed children and aid them on their road to recovery. The engaging nature of the gameplay and the opportunity for them to express themselves and communicate with others through it will help alleviate some of the loneliness and misery of these children facing extended hospitalisation. We are glad that our research at NTU is able to meet real needs like these."
Adds Dr Lizbeth Goodman, Director, SMARTLab UK & creator of the TRUST game internationally: "We are delighted with the results of the ActiveChair system in its first trial run here in Singapore, and we are inspired by the level of interest of the young people and researchers here too. We hope this demonstration will show that it is possible to inspire trust and hope with game technology, and that active play of all kinds certainly has its place in the rehabilitation of children."
Interest in the development of the NTU-UAL collaboration on the current version of the TRUST game was healthy. In developing the system, SMARTlab team members worked with young people at the KK Children's and Women's Hospital and built a gameworld inhabited by creatures and characters inspired by the youngsters. BBC R&D also seconded a senior engineer- Dr Marc Price- to the project to develop the game engine and help in the hardware and software interface. UCD shared expertise in haptics and rights to make a new version of the ActiveChair especially for children here in Singapore.
The 13-member team from NTU GameLAB and SMARTLab, UK, took about four months from January 2005 to complete the project. The project is owned and run by the TRUST Project based at SMARTlab in the UK, and linked to the Children's Health Fund and SafeSpaces.net (two not for profits in the USA). TRUST and its partners seek to support projects for the rehabilitation of children.
The official launch of the results of the NTU-UAL TRUST collaboration will take place on 23 April 2005 with a simultaneous live demonstration at 6pm at NTU in Singapore, and at 11am in Dublin. During the demonstration, a patient in Dublin and another in Singapore will demonstrate the capabilities of the system.
Selena Gomez New Charity Queen
Celebrities raising money for charity is not a new thing. But one that we feel deserves some special recognition is that of teen idol Selena Gomez who at such a young age has raised a great deal of money for charities, including the give-trust project. The teenage star joined forces with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in 2008, speaking out on issues such as children's rights, and she became an official representative of the charitable cause the following year. Gomez and her band The Scene performed for the organization last year, and they took to the stage again at the House of Blues in Los Angeles on Friday to raise more cash for the fund. That concert alone raised over $200,000 for UNICEF..! Selena has also travelled to the Congo for the ENOUGH Project, there she witnessed first hand the problems facing COngolese citizens faced with war, poverty and mining conflicts. As well as all of this, Selena has helped a huge number of smaller charities such as Borden Milk and Island Dogs which helps save Puerto Rican dogs, State Farm Insurance which helps promote safe driving. Recently Selena announced her second UNICEF charity concert. Gomez teased the event on her Twitter account, writing: "Have some surprise guests lined up for the UNICEF charity show... can't wait to share them with you." She added in a statement to her website: "Giving back has always been important to me. This concert allows me to connect with my fans in person which is one of the best parts of my job and to raise money for important causes at the same time. I can't think of anything I would enjoy doing more." To find out more about Selena click here.
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