The first wish granted by Make-A-Wish using VR is an intergalactic trip on the ‘Zayden 7’ rocket ship.
History was made this past monday as Make-A-Wish Georgia granted the first ever virtual reality wish to seven-year-old Zayden Wright in an attempt to fulfill his request of flying to the planet Saturn in a red rocket ship.
It was a tear-jerking scene inside the Texas Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia Monday as Make-A-Wish, NASA and and over 30 active servicemen and women came together to bring Zayden’s out-of-this-world vision to life. Suffering from sensory issues due to a congenital heart defect, the wish-granting organization was left with limited options on how to appease Zayden’s request when first introduced last year.
Amy Alvarez, the chapter’s vice president of marketing and communications recalled their initial reaction: “We went, ‘We can’t send a 7-year-old boy to Saturn. Traditionally we’d look at this wish and send them to space camp but what’s really important about Zayden is he has sensory issues so that wouldn’t have worked.”
In response the creative organization did the next best thing and commissioned a custom virtual reality experience based around Zayden’s ideas from his own imagination. Partnering with Atlanta-based animation studio TRICK 3D, MAWF provided the company with an audio recording of a conversation between Zayden and his mother in which he is asked to describe how he imagined Saturn to look. The studio then used this reference to craft Zayden’s perfect universe, complete with a red rocket ship and even a friendly alien named “Beeebo.”
After being transported to the air force base via police escort, the pint-sized Neil Armstrong was greeted by an astonishing 40 servicemen and women dubbed Zayden’s Squadron (okay now i’m starting to get a little jealous). This was just the tip of the iceberg for the little guy however, as Zayden was also joined by real-life astronaut Leroy Chiao, famous for becoming the first NASA astronaut to vote in a presidential election from space back in 2004. Chiao, who first met Zayden back in January when he was first learning about the mission, returned for the big ‘launch day’ to prep his astronaut protegee via a pre-flight meeting as well as provide him with his flight suit.
After strapping into his “cockpit” and placing on what he called his “astronaut goggles” (an HTC Vive headset), Zayden was transported to a virtual air force hangar designed to look identical to the real one he was currently sitting in. Before long he was zipping through his own personal universe on his Zayden 7 rocket in what volunteers were calling a “tear-jerker” moment.
“His face all of a sudden went being from anxious and nervous to so excited,” Alvarez said.
To learn more about becoming a Wish Maker, please visit www.georgia.wish.org.