STARBRIGHT World Network comforts ailing children

Washington D.C., 03 November 97 Together with Intel and Sprint, the Starbright Foundation has developed an Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) broadband network to link ailing children in hospitals around the United States of America. Last october, four celebrities gathered at Children's National Medical Center in Washington D.C. to announce the expansion and tout the benefits of this interactive computer network, called the STARBRIGHT World. President Clinton, Vice President Gore, director Steven Spielberg and General Norman Schwarzkopf linked during the VIP demonstration to children at Cook Children's Center in Fort Worth, Texas via the network's video-conferencing capabilities.

The possibilities of the STARBRIGHT World Network, having been tested in an eighteen month period, are tremendous. By offering a myriad of interactive games, virtual 3-D play spaces and health care information, the network has created a dazzling virtual world to help children deal with the daily medical and psychosocial challenges they have to face as a result of their illness. The results have proven that children using the network actually experienced less pain and had less need of medication requirements. Capital Campaign chairman Schwarzkopf was so impressed that he pleaded to increase the number of connected hospitals from eighteen to hundred by the end of 1998.

STARBRIGHT chairman Spielberg referred to the children as virtual prisoners for whom a virtual world has been created. The network makes use of routers to connect the sites together over Sprint's Commercial ATM service. Within each hospital, service is delivered over standard ethernet. The entire configuration is currently routed using standard Internet protocol. At present, conventional bandwidth (T-1) with a limit of eight concurrently active end stations supports all existing applications. A few hospitals however are T-3 connected which enables them to sustain approximately twenty times the number of concurrent sessions than that of a T-1 hospital.

The central server site as well as a selection of T-3 connected hospitals will serve as regional hubs because they have a minimum of 10 Mb/s Private Virtual Circuits (PVC) allowing connection to every other hospital and to the Server Hosting site. The hub sites, being dispersed all over the country, will provide transit points for the T-1 hospitals within their region, offering them more direct connections. Plans are being made to utilise conventional modems for home and school expansion. Direct communication with other hospitals through Intel's ProShare video conference technology is running smoothly thanks to the PVC circuits.

The central server site houses the main routers as well as multiple servers. The servers will be configured as mail, web, database and content servers. Firewalls and proxy gateways are guaranteeing absolute privacy and protection isolating the STARBRIGHT World Network from the Internet as a whole. The ailing children can move freely through the Starbright virtual playground, for a while oblivious of their misery.

The results of the network's testing phase have been gathered in an interesting study: "Virtual Reality and Hospitalized Children: A Pilot Study With Aggregation of the Results of Replicated Single System Designs via Meta-Analysis". More information about the study is available from Gary Holden at the following e-mail adress:

Leslie Versweyveld