HOUSTON (February 11, 2016)

Children's Memorial Hermann Dwight Howard Google cardboardMemorial Hermann Health System has teamed up with Houston Rockets’ star center Dwight Howard to bring a one-of-a-kind experience to pediatric patients at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Using cutting-edge technologies such as 360-degree video and Google Cardboard, Howard was able to visit the kids both virtually, then literally – giving the patients and their families an unexpected, and energetically received, surprise – and it was all caught on video.

In order to pull off the surprise, team members at the hospital invited the kids to watch an exclusive virtual reality video that Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute had filmed previously with Howard. The special 360 video provided a behind-the-scenes tour of VIP facilities at Toyota Center, the Rockets' home court, with Howard serving as the official tour guide. To further enhance the experience by making it fully immersive, the kids were each given a Google Cardboard through which to view the tour. As the children watched from the comfort of their hospital beds, little did they know Howard was waiting just outside their rooms to surprise them in person.

“I had an incredible time with all the kiddos and my favorite part was just seeing them smile,” said Howard. “You know they go through so much on a daily basis, so for me to be able to come to the hospital and spend a couple of minutes with them means the world to me. I have children and am thankful each and every day for them, and I am thankful for these kids too.”

Google Cardboard is already being used for life-saving surgical situations in the healthcare industry, and now health systems like Memorial Hermann are embracing the technology as a medium to enhance the patient experience.

“The idea of bringing an outside experience inside to our patients, from the comfort of their hospital beds, is not a new concept for us,” said Susie Distefano, Senior Vice President and CEO of Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “Only this time we’re using similar technologies to allow them to take an exclusive VIP tour of the Houston Rockets’ facilities, personally escorted by one of our city’s most famous athletes. It is a joy and a privilege to be able to bring special opportunities like these to the children we serve.”

Two years ago, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital used the Google Glass Explorer Program to allow kids of all ages to virtually “visit” the Houston Zoo, located across the street from the hospital, without ever leaving their hospital beds. In addition, Memorial Hermann has made international headlines for its live-tweeting of major operations, including an open-heart surgery, a brain operation, and the world’s first live-tweeted Caesarean section.

“Both the 360 video and the Google Cardboard technologies are so new, we are still exploring all the different ways we might be able to utilize them,” said Distefano. “But whether it’s our affiliated physicians using them in the clinical setting, or our care providers using them to bring some much needed smiles to the faces of our patients, the possibilities are quite exciting!