– Blood Centers of America and Abbott have partnered to use mixed-reality headsets to attract new blood donors.– The high-tech holographic glasses, built by Microsoft and programmed by Abbott, transport donors to a virtual zen garden.– The goal is to calm first-time donors and bring in more young people, as the number of donors under 30 has dropped in the last decade.– New York Blood Center was the first to deploy the technology, with plans to rotate the headsets to donation sites around the city.– Blood centers in Houston, Chicago, and Columbus are also using the headsets this summer.
MIAMI – June 14th is World Blood Donor Day, and to mark the occasion this year, several blood centers across the country are deploying a new, high-tech experience that they hope will help attract a new generation of blood donors.
Blood Centers of America has partnered with healthcare company Abbott to deploy mixed-reality headsets that donors can wear while they give. The high-tech holographic glasses are built by Microsoft and programmed by Abbott to transport wearers to a virtual zen garden that they can control with their eyes, while their arms remain still during a donation.
The experience is designed to help calm first-time donors and its creators hope it could help to bring in more young people. It’s important because Blood Centers of America says that in the last decade, the number of donors under age 30 has dropped by nearly a third. Since the pandemic, high school and college age donors are down by roughly half.
“Unfortunately when the pandemic hit, high schools went virtual and blood drives stopped,” explained Christine Foran, director of corporate and community events at New York Blood Center.
The New York Blood Center was the first place in the country to deploy the technology, with plans to rotate their first 10 headsets to donation sites around the city. Abbott says that blood centers in Houston, Chicago, and Columbus, Ohio are also using the headsets this summer.
“We’re hoping are going to come back,” said Foran. “And hopefully when they hear about the mixed reality, they’re going to want to come in and try it.”
One important feature of the technology is that the holographic lenses allow donors’ eyes to be visible in the real world while they explore virtually. That’s vital because blood center staffers need to be able to monitor donors closely and see their eyes while they actually give.
Parthid Patel, 25, has a tradition of donating blood annually around his birthday. This year, he visited the New York Blood Center and was offered the chance to try the holographic glasses. He said he enjoyed the new experience.