Smileyscope: transforming paediatric needles through VR


  • Smileyscope
  • Two Bulls


Smileyscope uses virtual reality (VR) to help kids with paediatric needle experiences. Designed by two Melbourne doctors and digitally developed by Two Bulls, Smileyscope developed an integrated hardware/software solution to aid this sharp clinical issue. Current needle distractions are ineffective: toys and TV can’t take away the anxiety provoked by a needle. Smileyscope’s VR experience transforms the needle experience into a fun underwater adventure where kids never see the needle – instead, they swim with fish and dolphins, and when they surface, the needle is over. It’s easy for clinicians to use. The hardware is kid-friendly and healthcare compatible.

Key Features


Integrating over two dozen best-practice paediatric and digital techniques, Smileyscope VR is clinically proven to decrease pain and anxiety. One technique is reframing the needle experience in VR (e.g. waves for antiseptic, and fish nibbling for needles), patented by Smileyscope. Current VR user interfaces are clunky and require calibration and/or a controller, but our patented solution only requires the headset and VR is literally only a button press away. Although VR is typically marketed for ages 12+, Smileyscope is clinically proven in children as young as 4. The hardware is healthcare compatible, and kids love putting on the colourful set.


Paediatric needles are a huge problem: Australian children undergo 30 million needles each year without adequate procedural pain management, costing the system 125 million AUD (equipment, treatment delays, staff injury, complications). Long term consequences include needle phobias and health care avoidance (15% of adults delay healthcare involving needles), often due to traumatic childhood experiences. Smileyscope’s VR is clinically proven to reduce pain and anxiety. Smileyscope enables best care in settings as varied as hospitals, rural and regional clinics. Differences are immediate and tangible. One parent said: “she’s had over 300 needles and this the first time she didn’t cry.”


Smileyscope’s philosophy is to design healthcare products to solve clinically relevant issues. The idea grew from the founders’ clinical practice, and the pressing clinical need to improve paediatric needle procedures. Embedding clinical best-practice in VR was a natural extension. The development of a simple, patented user interface directly flows from consideration of the clinician’s physical environment and their workflow. The result is a seamless integration whereby VR is easily activated. The clinician’s workflow is explicitly embedded in the VR experience, which is exquisitely choreographed in time to the real-world needle procedure. Both of these developments are now patented.


Smileyscope exemplifies the result of Australian clinicians collaborating with the private sector: world-leading healthcare innovation. The vision was to solve a clinical problem. This required an solution integrating the child’s perspective, clinicians and the healthcare environment. Product development required multiple technological innovations (e.g. hardware, software), as well as digital best-practice VR content creation (e.g. reframing). Multidisciplinary collaboration drew upon over a dozen clinicians, a dozen software/hardware specialists and 100+ user tests were done before clinical trials begun. The product is recognised as innovative by leading Australian and US hospitals, and will launch in the US by the end of 2018.


1. The VR experience is optimised to enable clinicians to go a full session without recharging, and verbal prompts encourage the user to recharge when the battery is low.

2. To enable children as young as 4 to be able to use VR, we designed the set to be lightest and most comfortable possible.

3. The VR hardware is deliberately designed so the set is unlikely to be damaged by drop. The physical design reduces the risk of theft or loss, yet the set is still convenient enough for a clinician to grab-and-go anywhere.

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