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Creative Machines | Interactive Experiences for Children’s Hospitals

“A children’s hospital is the perfect setting for this fun work of art.” - The Carmel Hill Fund

Incrediball Circus II

Air Rockets

Front Page

Creative play has long been explored by doctors and researchers as a valuable method for helping children reduce stress and promote healing.1 We believe that play should be an essential component to a child’s hospital experience. In the pages that follow, we introduce ourselves, discuss the role of creative play in healing, how hospitals have used creative play to help their patients, and how we can build upon these efforts to make hospitals a welcoming and healing place for children.

Texas Rising

Animation Workstation

Discovery Carts

Waterworks 1. Perone, A. (2014, Summer). Healing with(in) imaginative play. Child Life Council Bulletin 32(3), 8.asdasd

Creative Play & Healing

“I have the highest regard for their work in terms of design, fabrication, installation, and service. I highly recommend them for any project requiring interactive and multimedia exhibits related to science, technology, math, engineering, and art.� - Joe Hastings, Explora

Bernoulli Worktable

Fish Bellies

Wind Lab


Creative Machines is a group of visionary artists, engineers and fabricators that designs and builds interactive objects and experiences. Since 1995, we have been making dynamic projects for museums, science centers, libraries, transit stops, trade shows, parks, festivals, university campuses, and hospitals and waiting rooms across the globe.


Archimedean Excogitation

Dark Waters


Creative Machines

We begin each project with extensive research, brainstorming, and testing to understand the visitor experience. We create experiences that are immersive and empowering. Often the people who encounter our work become so engaged in play and exploration they lose track of time and forget their surroundings. Beyond a simple distraction, we give people the power and encouragement to stretch their imagination and discover new abilities within themselves.

Chockablock Clock

Bike Church

For the last ten years, we have been developing safe and enjoyable approaches to bringing play into healing spaces. We have developed a series of interactive objects and experiences that are already being used to great success in hospitals and waiting rooms. Below is a list of recent and current clients: The Launcher

Simple Machines


Creative Machines

more about

Alexian Brothers Women & Children’s Hospital Akron Children’s Hospital Boston Children’s Hospital Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital ProHealth CARE Regional Cancer Center & Ambulatory Campus Shriner’s Hospital for Children Square & Compass Children’s Clinic UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital VA Palo Alto Heath Care System

“Not only does Creative Machines have wonderfully creative ideas, but they listened to us, and designed exhibits that met our needs.� - Karen Johnson, Executive Director of Discovery Science Center

Bubble Chambers

Through the eyes of a child, a hospital is a big, scary place where much is out of their control. This creates stress. One of the most powerful and effective means of reducing a child’s stress is play.2 Research confirms this and suggests ways in which we can improve the hospital experience for children and their families. Studies done in hospital settings by researchers from Yale University, University of California and in the U.K. show that children involved in interactive therapeutic puppet shows, drawing, and other creative activities designed to prepare them for surgery exhibit less anxiety, are more cooperative, and ultimately have better hospital experiences.3 4 5 Many hospitals appreciate the need for creative and therapeutic play and have established child life programs.6 These programs often include trained specialists who use play-based techniques to help reduce the stress and anxiety that many children experience in healthcare settings. Research into the benefits of these programs show that child life services help to shorten hospital stays and reduce the use of analgesics during recovery.7 Research shows that a playroom setting also can reduce stress.8 Having a special place to play allows children to be active while in the hospital and increases their feelings of having control over what is happening to them.2 Researchers distinguish between directed play—such as playing video games or solving puzzles—and creative play— such as constructing a building or creating a story. While both forms of play provide distraction for children, creative play does a better job of stimulating the development of cognitive abilities that allow them to adjust and cope better in stressful environments.9 Creative play offers tangible benefits to both the patient and the hospital.

Building with Light

Pulse Tower

Build Wall Build Bench

Computer Controlled Mirror

Jesse, P; Wilson, H.; & Morgan, D. “Medical Play for Young Children,”


Childhood Education, 2000, v 76, i 4, p 215. Zahr, L.K. “Therapeutic play for hospitalized preschoolers in Lebanon,” Pediatric Nursing, 1998, v 23, pp 449-454. 4 Visintainer, M. & Wolfer, J. “Psychological Preparation for Surgical Pediatric Patients: The Effect on Children’s and Parents’ Stress Responses and Adjustment,” Pediatrics, 1975, v 56, i 2, pp 187-203. 5 Carroll, J. “Play Therapy: The Children’s Views,” Child and Family Social Work, 2002, i 7, pp 177-187. 6 7 “Child Life Services,” Pediatrics, 2000, v 106, i 5, p 1156. 8 Carson, David K.; Jenkins, Jeanette; & Stout, C. Bondred “Assessing Child Life Programs: Study Model With a Small Number of Subjects,” Children’s Health Care, 1985, v 14, i 2, p 123. 9 Russ, S. Playt, “Creativity and Adaptive Functioning: Implications for Play Interventions,” Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 1998, v 27, i 4, pp 469-480. 3

Play Promotes Healing

“Creative Machines is among the top firms worldwide for the engineering and fabrication of complex interactive exhibits. They excel in the engineering and fabrication of exhibits, the integration of sophisticated technology with highly accessible experiences, and the pairing of multimedia with traditional interactives.� - Rickard Larsson, INSPIRIA Science Center

Jump Time

Many hospitals have designated areas that act as playrooms for their child or teen patients. These areas provide a place for children to get out of their room and interact with other children. A typical playroom consists of toys, equipment for drawing/painting, board games, video games, televisions and other activities that provide entertainment and diversion. We feel there is an opportunity to do more. The types of interactive experiences we propose would meet the following goals: -engages more of the patient’s SENSES -provides opportunities for patients to use their LARGE motor skills -gives patients the opportunity to BUILD something bigger than themselves -offers patients a SOCIAL environment where they can interact with others -provides a forum for patients to DISPLAY their work to parents and other patients -encourages sustained INVOLVEMENT with open-ended challenges such as making movies or building structures (i.e. challenges that can motivate days or weeks of involvement) -creates UNIQUE experiences for patients that feel more special than off-the-shelf toys and media -easy to CLEAN for ongoing use by patients

Bubble Chambers

-provides a MUSICAL experience for patients especially those who are visually impaired -becomes MOBILE for patients who are unable to leave their room Finally, play doesn’t have to be geared only towards children or limited to a playroom. Researchers are starting to explore the impact of imaginative play on adults as a method of healing.1 Many of our projects appeal to adults and children alike and can be located in general waiting rooms, atria, or stairwells. Zippy Zoo

Bernoulli Worktable

Wind Lab

Perone, A. (2014, Summer). Healing with(in) imaginative play. Child Life Council Bulletin 32(3), 8.asdasd 1.

Future of Creative Play

“They have separated themselves from typical fabrication firms through their exceptional ability to solve complex design challenges by integrating sophisticated technology and mechanical systems that achieve highly accessible and engaging experiences.� - Mat Stalberger, Thinkery Austin


Our years of experience developing environments for children’s museum, science centers, and family friendly events has given us special insight into designing for play. Our goal is to combine creative, therapeutic, and traditional play activities to create an experience that appeals to children, their families, hospital staff and also potential donors. Each hospital’s needs are different. Many of our projects have involved collaboration. We can work with your staff to develop activities that encourage creative play that will enhance your patients’ hospital visit. Or we can provide a series of experiences that have proven successful in other institutions, but can be customized to meet the unique needs of your hospital. The following projects each meet not one but many of our goals: Watercolor Wall SENSES SOCIAL DISPLAY UNIQUE CLEAN Watercolor Wall allows patients to paint a wall with just a touch. By holding a finger on a touch point, visitors can change areas of the wall to whatever color they choose. Countless color variations are possible. Building With Light SENSES SOCIAL UNIQUE CLEAN DISPLAY INVOLVEMENT MOBILE Building With Light allows patients to build with acrylic TETRIS pieces creating designs on top of a color changing surface giving people the feeling that they are building with color. Patients can use touch points to control the rows of colored LEDs to transform their creations.

Watercolor Wall

Summer Fantasy / Winter Fantasy SENSES SOCIAL UNIQUE MUSICAL Summer and Winter Fantasy are two versions of our limited edition Ball Machine Sculptures. These small yet mesmerizing sculptures delight people of all ages with their swirling track, bouncing balls, and vibrant colors. Beat Bender SENSES SOCIAL UNIQUE CLEAN MOBILE INVOLVEMENT Beat Bender is an electronic drum that turns everyone into a musician. By simply tapping the metal circles, patients can play a wide variety of sounds creating simple or complex compositions.

Building with Light

How we can help

Winter Fantasy

Beat Bender

Animation Workstation SENSES CLEAN MOBILE UNIQUE INVOLVEMENT DISPLAY Animation Workstation allows patients to create their own stopmotion animations by moving objects on a stage and taking a series of still “frames.” Recording is fast and efficient. Previous designs have been used in patients’ rooms. Custom Ball Machine Sculpture SENSES SOCIAL UNIQUE MUSICAL We also create larger custom Ball Machine Sculptures filled with ingenious devices and charming miniatures that can reflect a specific theme or location. Children and families love to watch these playful machines during every visit.

Fish Bellies SENSES SOCIAL UNIQUE LARGE Fish Bellies is an interactive sculpture that invites patients to climb into the interlocking series of glowing enclosures. Each “belly” has two touch sensors which allow people to curate the sculpture’s color creating their own mini-environment.

Walk On Piano MUSICAL CLEAN SENSES SOCIAL UNIQUE LARGE DISPLAY INVOLVEMENT Walk On Piano is a human-size musical instrument made to be played with your feet. Children love playing on this two-octave piano making real tunes and exploring the joy of music. Animation Workstation

Rolling Ball Construction Set SENSES SOCIAL UNIQUE LARGE BUILD DISPLAY INVOLVEMENT This Construction Set allows patients to build a ball machine of their own. Using a metal scaffolding, tubes, devices, and a lifter, people can design a machine that rolls, swirls and catch balls.

Simple Machines

Bippity Boppity Balls

Walk on Piano

Simple Machines SENSES LARGE BUILD DISPLAY SOCIAL UNIQUE INVOLVEMENT Simple Machines is a metal wall that allows patients to construct a series of assemblies using pegs, magnetic gears, rubber track, and PVC tube. Users can create roller coasters to roll balls or geared machines to turn objects overhead.

How we can help

Virtual Graffiti SENSES CLEAN SOCIAL UNIQUE DISPLAY INVOLVEMENT Virtual Graffiti allows patients to leave their mark on a virtual wall. Users can choose a color, press the button on an electronic spray can, and paint away. Paintings can be saved and viewed on the Internet. Bloom SENSES SOCIAL UNIQUE CLEAN Bloom is a group of 14 colorful kinetic sculptures. Each ‘bloom’ pinwheel is connected to a motor and slowly rotates. A panel allows patients to control the spinning pinwheels through touch points. The chance to control the pinwheels enchants children and adults alike. Computer Controlled Mirror SENSES SOCIAL UNIQUE CLEAN DISPLAY Computer Controlled Mirror is a flexible mirror attached to 15 computer controlled motors. Patients can choose between programs like “tall and short,” “wiggle foot,” and “belly dance.” The mirror brings smiles to patients’ faces as it dynamically transforms their reflection. Any of these experiences can establish positive touchstones that families associate with the hospital beyond their visit. They also offer a way for hospitals to differentiate themselves and generate opportunities to attract funding from corporate or individual donors. All of these projects are built for public use, and we design for longevity. For these reasons, we use materials and fabrication methods that are meant to endure. We have extensive experience integrating interactive exhibits and artwork in both public and private spaces and are happy to work with design teams, contractors and maintenance staff to successfully install your project.

Computer Controlled Mirror

We are also open to creating new interactive experiences for children’s hospitals. We can create drawings, renderings, and three-dimensional models to help you visualize the project. We do everything under one roof: design, fabrication, and installation. We hope you found one of these projects inspiring and we look forward to working with you!

Building with Light

How we can help


Virtual Graffiti

“Creative Machines is unique in their approach, inventiveness and the quality of their work. They provided a confidence that made the most fearful in our group feel at ease. Their ‘can do’ attitude, approach to problem solving, creativity, attention to our needs, and complete commitment to the importance of the visitor experience is testimony to their professionalism. The gallery they created for us is truly remarkable and I believe raises the standards for interactive galleries in art museums for years to come.” - Lynn Whitelaw, Director, Leepa Rattner Museum of Art

Newton’s Daydream

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