On the court, Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard can be a polarizing figure. Off the court, however, Howard has always been a very accessible and generous superstar, supporting girls initiatives in East Africa and children in Houston through his foundation. Recently, Howard teamed up with Memorial Hermann Health Systems to bring pediatric patients a unique experience — a virtual visit using 360-degree video and Google Cardboard.
The special video was a VIP, behind-the-scenes tour of the Toyota Center, the home court of the Rockets with Howard as the official tour guide. As the children watched from their beds, Howard was waiting 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 and now health systems see the technology as beneficial for the patient experience across the board — and Memorial Hermann has embraced technology of all kinds. Two years ago, they used the Google Glass Explorer Program to allow kids to “visit” the Houston Zoo, across the street from the hospital, without leaving the comfort of their beds. The hospital also made headlines by live-tweeting major operations including open-heart surgery, a brain operation and C-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 Susie Distefano, Senior Vice President and CEO of Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital. "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.”