If someone collapsed in front of you, would you know what to do? Lifesaver, a new crisis simulator for smartphones, tablets, and PCs that combines interactivity with live-action film, just launched in the U.K. to enable members of the public to help should they encounter one of the 60,000 people in the country who have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest each year.
Fewer than 10% of those who arrest in public places or at home survive, according to medical charity Resuscitation Council (UK), producer of the official U.K. guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) followed by the U.K.'s National Health Service and first aid charities. Yet a bystander able to start CPR can double a person’s chances of survival.
The bystander problem’ has been a concern for emergency services for many years, according to interactive writer and director Martin Percy, who came up with the idea for the new CPR simulator, Lifesaver, after undertaking a traditional CPR course in south London almost 10 years ago.
"The traditional approach to teaching CPR skills involves working on a plastic dummy while you’re given guidance over a nice cup of tea," he explains.
"But aside from the fact that in London alone the ambulance service has struggled to reach its goal of encouraging just 1% of the population to take a CPR course, many people soon forget how many pushes to do or how hard and lose confidence in their ability to help."
Lifesaver, a free app backed by the Resuscitation Council, the digital production company UNIT9, which reps Percy, and the U.K.'s Technology Strategy Board, offers an interactive and engaging lesson for people who might find themselves in a position to help. The app puts you the viewer into a series of films where you make on-the-spot decisions to help a person who may have just suffered cardiac arrest.
Interactive film offers an opportunity to provide a new way of learning that challenges people to make lifesaving decisions in a pressured environment, Percy explains. Users learn the mechanics of CPR by interacting with the screen—by either clicking or dragging a mouse on the web version or, on an iPad, moving the device up and down.
Careful preproduction planning and scripting was essential to ensure Lifesaver achieved the desired impact. "One problem many interactive films suffer is suspension of disbelief and users’ failure to identify with the choices the lead character they are meant to identify with has to make," he says.
Another is shooting solely from the main character’s perspective in the first person. Do this and you risk weakening the emotional connection an audience feels, which is why it is also important to show your character from other people’s perspectives, for example: looking agitated or upset.
Percy adds: "The key is to ensure the user believes they are controlling a real character in a real situation at all times."
Lifesaver comprises three dramatic interactive scenarios ranging in duration from eight to 12 minutes, an accompanying Real Life Stories & Questions film, plus additional medical and emergency information and opportunity to feed back.
Live action footage was shot by Percy and UNIT9 producer Pietro Matteucci last November working in partnership with commercials production house Outsider.
A rough linear edit was then done highlighting key decision points. Interactive elements were then integrated by the UNIT9 team headed by technical director Yates Buckley and executive producer Piero Frescobaldi, whose emphasis throughout was on ensuring the user experience was "gamelike rather than binary."
Further edits and adjustments were then made before the crisis simulator was user tested.
Lifesaver should be seen as an addition to rather than replacement for existing, more traditional CPR education tools, Percy stresses. That said, he admits he is excited about the potential of the iPad version in particular to offer users an experience that’s more immersive and instinctive than any that’s been previously available.
Moving forward, he adds, he hopes to secure funding that will enable UNIT9 to produce a version of Lifesaver for the United States where resuscitation guidelines differ from those that currently operate in the U.K.
Lifesaver is now available online for smartphones and tablets. Without any marketing budget, it will be promoted by the Resuscitation Council, relevant health charities, and word of mouth—in Percy’s own words: standing or falling by being good enough for people to talk about and recommend to friends.