In the Game—Dimensional Innovations' Connecticut Spring

Read Time: 8 minutes

This past spring, experience design and fabrication firm Dimensional Innovations (Overland Park, Kan.) unveiled two innovative projects in the Constitution State: Hall of Champions at the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center and Wilderverse at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

 

Victory at the Hall of Champions

At the University of Connecticut, the new Populous-designed athletic facility is one of the most ambitious projects ever taken on by the school, clocking in at over 75,000 square feet of space and housing two separate wings for the men’s and women’s basketball programs. The building also includes centralized common areas for academic support, sports medicine and video analysis theaters in addition to practice and strength training facilities.

The impressive collegiate facility, however, was incomplete without creating an experience that would share and honor the University’s rich basketball heritage, while providing an apt setting to celebrate and recruit in. With such a long and storied basketball tradition, the project was more than building display cases; the project was to serve as a “reminder to our players what the standards are at UConn—competing and playing like a champion,” according to Dan Hurley, the men’s basketball head coach. The consensus among the UConn client group was with the premier college basketball program, should come an apropos “Hall of Champions.”

The Werth Family Basketball Center at The University of Connecticut project started with an interview in early 2017, where Dimensional Innovations was chosen to lead design and fabrication. “We knew it was going to be a highly interactive and impactful space for both basketball programs,” explains Drew Berst, DI’s practice director for collegiate sports. “The clear messaging across all interactions needed to be ‘championships are what we do here.’”

After a fundraising hiatus, the DI team embarked on the challenge of communicating the long history of the men’s and women’s programs—narrowing the content and tailoring it to the visually-stunning vertical lobby space. The biggest challenge for the DI team was how to communicate the long, legendary history of UConn’s teams—narrowing the content down and tailoring it to the mostly vertical space. “The way we overcame that challenge was with digital,” says Berst. “We were able to work closely with coaching staff to integrate the content needs of the client without compromising important player stories.”

The hall prominently features all of the trophies representing the four men’s championships and nine women’s title wins, in addition to digital and interactive technology woven throughout the space—like directly above the trophy case in the lobby, where a large 16-foot-wide digital canvas provides excitement and conveys the broader story of UConn success. “The full wall buildout makes a bold statement,” remarks Ryan McDonald, creative director. “The digital canvas piece ties into a much broader expression, from the towering presence of the trophies to an interactive lightshow.” Throughout the graphics, built-ins and brand imagery, the DI design team has mimicked the verticality of the space and the game using noticeable vertical striping.

The space unfolds in a mirror image from the shared celebratory lobby, with identical wings for men’s and women’s programs that delve into team and player stories. Static images frame the main case and commemorate the most recent national championship for the two programs, respectively, leading on each side to a 21-foot-tall, 10-foot-wide, Daktronics-manufactured, narrow-pixel-pitch LED screen—highly visible from the outside—which creates a larger-than-life impression.

Free-standing pedestals honor six individual players in each wing, with imagery silk-screened on layered panes of glass, creating depth of field and casting silhouetted shadows in the afternoon light. Visitors can interact in various places on each side: a green screen experience places guests onto the court for a photo-op and three basketball-driven interactives serve up deep dives into players and stats.

A specific client request, the green screen experiences function simply and effectively with a painted green wall across from a screen outfitted with camera, scene selection and send-to-email functionality, allowing visitors to pose with current players. The three interactive kiosks in each wing use an actual UConn basketball filled with foam as a giant trackball to navigate a custom CMS.

“We’re here because we have something to celebrate,” says Geno Auiremma, UConn Women’s Basketball Head Coach. David Benedict, UConn Director of Athletics, shared that their ultimate goal had been to have “the best display and recognition of college basketball in the country, and I believe that’s what we have.”


Project Name: Hall of Champions, Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center
Client: University of Connecticut
Location: Storrs, Conn.
Open Date: March 2019
Project Area: 77,000 sq ft
Architect: Populous
Interactive Experience Design: Dimensional Innovations
Fabrication/Digital Integration: Dimensional Innovations
Collaborators: Daktronics (digital display hardware), Dillmeier Glass Company (trophy display cases), Henderson Engineers (engineering)
Photography: Dimensional Innovations

 

 

Enter the Wilderverse

The only hospital in Connecticut dedicated solely to young patients, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country. At Connecticut Children’s Medical Center infusion center, intravenous therapy is administered to patients with immune, gastrointestinal and endocrine disorders and diseases. Connecticut Children’s Medical Center needed a new infusion center—the facility was cramped and unwelcoming for young patients—so the hospital raised funds for an expansion that could provide much needed space and distraction for the kids.

“We worked with the care providers and patient families to create a space to promote a change in a patient’s mindset from ‘I’m stuck in here because I’m sick’ to ‘I’m on a journey of healing,” explains Karri May, manager of planning, design & construction for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

With this increased focus on facilitating welcoming and engaging experiences for patients and their families, incorporating technology beyond the procedure room and into the healing process has become an important focus for healthcare professionals and staff. Lori Garcia, facilities creative manager at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center assisted in leading the charge to find a design firm that could help bring the infusion facility to life by creating a digital experience to complement the newly renovated space.

Garcia had become aware of the DI team’s work in the past and challenged them to create an enthralling experience that would appeal to patients ranging in ages from young children to teens. The team felt that a game-like experience could be a good approach not only to hold the patient’s interest for an extended amount of time but was also as the type of interaction that patients could easily return to as most patients have to visit multiple times for a course of treatment.

Hospital staff and doctors suggested the idea of “bringing the outdoors in” by creating a nature-inspired theme and surveyed patients about what they’d be interested in seeing in a game, bringing that data to the DI team, who have been working increasingly on animation-forward projects. Together with the client team and architects and working within a preset floorplan, they reached the concept of a large, interactive tree in the center of the facility beset with curved OLED screens for easy viewing from all angles that would function as windows into a magical world—the “Wilderverse”—that can only be accessed onsite.

“Based on our experience, we knew [the Wilderverse] needed to be quickly accessible, and no one wants to download another app,” says JC Hendricks, VP/creative director of interactive technology at DI. “So, by creating a website that can only be used at the Infusion Center, it’s a special experience available for only those patients and their family members.”

The Wilderverse is a web-based interactive game that allows patient users access through a (provided or personal) phone or tablet to create a custom avatar that explores a virtual world visible on the displays in the center of the treatment center, or on the monitor within their room when the curtain is closed for privacy. The design incorporates nature settings, including a campfire, castle, waterfall, large flower pods and a ship scene. The Wilderverse settings and tree lighting change during the day and from room to room, creating added interest.

Children choose from three different base avatar types and customize their features to make theirs unique. As a user continues to interact with their avatar, called a pathfinder, more accessories like wings, fire and a unicorn horn become available, and the patient can access functionality, like sending a care package to a pathfinder—adding a layer of fun, and ultimately rewarding distraction. Some interactions even affect the LED tree lighting, providing a special tie to the environment as patients and pathfinders play, and heal, together.

"Here it almost feels like a playground or cool resort hotel...it's definitely something to take your mind off the infusion part...that time will fly by with the Pathfinders," a patient told DI. Since opening, the center has proven to be a huge success with patients, their families and the medical staff who facilitate recovery.

“The customization of the avatars, from color to texture, gives kids a sense of control, and allows them to virtually escape from the not-so-fun experience of getting an infusion treatment,” remarks Jessica Morrow, healthcare account director at DI. “The added benefit of creating a sense of community through the avatars of other children going through similar treatments interacting in the space, reminds them that they’re not alone in their treatment process.”

 

Project Name: Wilderverse
Client: Connecticut Children’s Medical Center
Location: Farmington, Conn.
Open Date: April 2019
Interactive Experience Design: Dimensional Innovations
Architect: Tecton Architects
Fabrication/Digital Integration: Dimensional Innovations
Photography: Dimensional Innovations

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