Taking Blood Donation to a New Dimension of Reality

Abbott, Blood Centers of America offer innovative mixed reality experience for World Blood Donor Day.

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Your eyes are drawn to the colorful garden, where trees and plants are sprouting up all around you. You could be embarking on an invigorating hike, but you're actually in a chair with a headset on, ready to donate blood.

The garden is the central feature of a new mixed reality experience designed to add a fresh element to the time-honored tradition of giving blood.

For the first time, Abbott and Blood Centers of America’s new mixed reality blood donation experience will be available for people to use at select Blood Centers of America donation sites across the country, just in time for World Blood Donor Day on June 14.

The immersive digital experience adds a novel dimension to giving blood to attract first-time and younger donors and helps address the challenge of sustaining a reliable blood supply.

The first-of-its-kind mixed reality experience is being offered at several blood donation sites across the country, including New York, the Chicago area, Houston and, in the coming weeks, Columbus, Ohio, and Dallas. To learn if mixed reality is available at a donation site near you, visit bethe1donor.com/mixedreality.

"This is an exciting new way to get people interested in donating blood," said Alex Carterson, divisional vice president, medical, scientific and clinical affairs, Abbott. "Mixed reality introduces a safe, fun dimension to the act of giving blood. We think this will resonate with people who have been hesitant to donate, those who have never donated and a younger generation who can become the foundation of the nation’s blood donation efforts for years to come."

One of the biggest challenges facing the sustainability of our nation's blood supply over the last decade is the loss of a significant portion of donors under the age of 30. On average only 3% of the U.S. population donates blood each year,1 and the past decade has seen a 30% decrease in donors 30 and younger.2

Donations tend to dip during the summer months, especially among younger people who are finished with school or taking time off from work. This year's theme for World Blood Donor Day is "Give blood, give plasma, share life, share often" and focuses on how donations help patients requiring life-long transfusion support.

As a global leader in screening blood and plasma, we partnered with Blood Centers of America, the largest blood supplier network in the U.S., to develop the experience, first showcased in January during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

A New Vision for a New Experience

When donors arrive for their appointment, after checking in, they will put on a mixed reality headset that still allows them to see the world around them. Using only their eyes, they will visit a whimsical garden, planting seeds that grow into colorful trees and flowers as they listen to soothing music. The experience is meant to help those who may be apprehensive about giving, providing a calming distraction and a fun way to participate.

The mixed reality experience allows blood donation professionals to safely conduct the donation and interact with donors at every step of the process. Donors' eyes are always visible during donation to ensure constant monitoring and evaluation. Participants wear lightweight mixed reality headsets to enter a digital world but remain fully aware of their surroundings, ensuring a seamless, convenient and safe donation.

"Mixed reality is a fantastic way to attract the next generation of blood donors and find younger people interested in giving," said Harpreet K. Sandhu, CEO, Stanford Blood Center (Palo Alto, Calif.) and chairperson of Blood Centers of America. "The need for blood is constant and we're continually looking for smart new ways that will appeal to people who have never donated before or may be apprehensive. The mixed reality experience is a terrific way to get those people interested in participating."

Mixed reality is similar to virtual reality but allows users to see the real world around them as they immerse themselves in a digital world. The mixed reality journey uses Microsoft HoloLens 2 headsets, the world’s first self-contained holographic computer, enabling hands-free interaction with three-dimensional digital objects and a library of applications.

Donors are offered a quick tutorial on the headsets and the mixed reality world prior to use. The headsets can be adjusted for each donor’s comfort and are easily integrated into the donation process.

Interested in trying out the mixed reality experience while donating blood? Visit bethe1donor.com/mixedreality to find out if the experience may be coming to a donation center near you and to learn more about becoming a regular blood donor.

References

1 https://americasblood.org/statistics_guide/
2 Blood Centers of America National Database, GOLD, in 2021

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