A woman wearing mixed reality goggles while donating blood

A blood donor wearing a Microsoft HoloLens 2 headset for a mixed reality experience while giving. [Photo courtesy of Abbott]

Mixed reality technology will aim to ease and entertain blood donors while they’re in the chair under a pilot program from Abbott and Blood Centers of America.

Blood donors will wear mixed reality (a combination of virtual reality and augmented reality) headsets. They will find themselves in “a whimsical garden while listening to soothing music, planting seeds that grow into colorful trees and flowers,” Abbott said in a news release.

It’s an effort to improve the blood donation process and attract new donors, particularly younger people. The goal is to bolster the nation’s blood supply.

“Not only is it an immersive and unique use of mixed reality controlled completely through eye tracking, it’s a high-tech and creative way to improve the donation experience and make it more appealing for people to participate,” Alex Carterson, Abbott divisional vice president of medical, scientific and clinical affairs, said in the release.

Mixed reality could make blood donation more attractive

Abbott’s mixed reality experience for blood donations uses Microsoft HoloLens 2 headsets. [Photo courtesy of Abbott]

Abbott said it based the mixed reality experience on research showing that blood donors prefer natural settings when giving. Donors will wear lightweight Microsoft HoloLens 2 headsets. They’ll remain fully aware of their surroundings, and their eyes will remain visible so blood donation center staff can constantly monitor them for safety.

“At Microsoft, we’ve seen the impact digital technologies can have in healthcare – from empowering health team collaboration and increasing clinician productivity to enhancing the patient experience,” Dr. David Rhew, Microsoft’s global chief medical officer and vice president of healthcare, said in the release “We’re pleased to see Abbott embrace mixed reality to create a positive experience for blood donors and to encourage the public to donate.”

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Abbott and Blood Centers of America demonstrated the mixed reality technology at CES 2023. In addition, they will offer the technology on a limited basis at select  Blood Centers of America locations across the U.S. Donors can sign up to be notified when the mixed reality experience is available near them.

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“Since the need for blood is constant, we’re continually looking for smart new ways that will appeal to people who have never donated before or may be apprehensive,” Blood Centers of America Chair Harpreet Sandhu said in the news release. “The mixed reality experience is a terrific way to get those people interested in participating. It adds a fun, interactive element to donation, and it’s easy and convenient for blood centers to use.”

ZimVie is another medical device developer taking advantage of mixed reality technology. The orthopedics company’s OptiVu mixed reality apps assist in instrument assembly, track patient progress before and after surgery, and let clinicians and patients experience a surgery demonstration to better understand the procedure.