The Teleporter Zone

Paul Sermon, 2006

The Teleporter Zone is situated in the ground floor of The Evelina Children’s Hospital, known as Ocean. It provides patients and their friends and family members with a chance to be transported from the confines of the hospital waiting area to imaginary and fantastical virtual worlds. It is the first teleporter to have been developed for a hospital.

The installation enables children to perform and interact on ‘television’ and aims to distract them (and their families and carers) from the worry of being in hospital. Children can see themselves on screen in a variety of settings: on a pirate ship, in an aeroplane, in a spaceship, in a king and queen’s throne, in front of the Taj Mahal, in the ocean, surrounded by cuddly toys on a sofa, floating with the clouds, on the beach and in a circus tent. Each sequence last two minutes enabling children to have fun and interact with their tele-visual surroundings

Created by Paul Sermon, Professor of Creative Technology at the University of Salford, the installation relays live video images between two spaces so that visitors sitting in different places can be seen on the television screen in the same virtual environment. It uses ‘chroma keying’ technology – the technology used to present newsreaders and weather forecasters in front of maps and graphical backgrounds.

All photographs courtesy

of Paul Tyagi

The recent release of the Arts Council England publication “Arts in health: a review of medical literature” (Staricoff, 2004) presents a comprehensive evaluation of research into the influence and effects of the arts on healthcare between 1990 and 2004. This review includes 385 references from related medical literature and offers strong evidence of the value arts and humanities have in enhancing patient recovery. However, many studies undertaken concentrate on the influence of audio and music, with the remainder focusing on literature, poetry and visual arts. The review concludes by recommending that different art forms need to be integrated and evaluated in the healthcare culture (Staricoff, 2004).

With the development of shared telepresent virtual environments (Sermon, 1995) it is possible to relay live video images between two sites and combine audience participants within the same telepresent installation. This technique has been used successfully in a variety of installations consisting of tables (Sermon, 1999), chairs, sofas (Sermon, 1993) and beds (Sermon, 1992) as a means of interface, and have been exhibited widely in Japan, America, Australia and Europe.

One of the key features of this work, and its relevance to the context of an outpatients waiting area has been children’s compelling desire to embody a telepresent performer role presented on ‘stage’ in front of them (Sermon, 2004). After entering the installation the participants become completely uninhibited by the public surroundings, as if they were themselves no longer present in that space. This phenomenon is defined as ‘telepresent escapism’ (Sermon, 2004) and is considered a means of ‘extending consciousness’ (Morse, 2000).

The Teleporter Zone is one of five permanent artworks incorporated within the outpatients waiting area of the new Evelina Children’s Hospital at St Thomas’ in London. Envisaged by healthcare strategists “Rawlinson Kelly Whittlestone” and designed by “Hopkins Architects”, this hospital has been proclaimed as one of the UK’s foremost and innovative NHS projects.

"The new Evelina Children's Hospital has been designed around the needs of children and their families. Its underlying philosophy is to create 'a hospital that does not feel like a hospital', housing a gallery and performance space, a café and hospital school."

Based on this philosophy, The Teleporter Zone is designed to relocate outpatients to a different time and space. It will help to move outpatients away from the confines of the waiting area and speed up the time spent waiting. An ‘S’ shaped curved wall will ensure that children on either side will not be able to see each other. However, video monitors on each side will show the participants sitting together within computer animated background scenes that suggest the content of their communication, and further relocate the interacting children within entirely new telepresent environments.

Commissioned by Guy's and St Thomas' Charity