June 14 is World Blood Donor Day. To mark the occasion, New York Blood Center became the first donation center in the United States to deploy mixed-reality holographic lenses that blood donors can wear while they give. The experience is designed to help calm first-time donors and help bring in more young blood donors.

Wearing the lenses, donors can view a virtual zen garden, plant seeds that grow into colorful trees, and listen to soothing music, all while giving blood. 

One unique feature of the technology is that the holographic lenses allow donors’ eyes to be visible in the real world while they explore virtually. This is vital because blood center staffers need to be able to monitor donors closely and see their eyes while they actually give.

Young donors are essential because, according to Blood Centers of America, the number of donors under age 30 in the last decade has dropped by nearly a third. Since the pandemic, high school and college-age donors have been down by roughly half.

“Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit, high schools went virtual, and blood drives stopped,” explained Christine Foran, director of corporate and community events at New York Blood Center. “We’re hoping [young donors] are going to come back. And hopefully, when they hear about the mixed reality, they’re going to want to come in and try it.”

New York Blood Center has plans to rotate its first 10 holographic lens headsets to donation sites around New York City.

Blood Centers of America partnered with healthcare company Abbott to deploy the lenses. The high-tech lenses are built by Microsoft and programmed by Abbott. 

Donate blood today. Save lives tomorrow. Schedule your blood donation at a New York Blood Center location near you.

Check out the CBS News story featuring NYBCe Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Andrea Cefarelli speaking about this innovative new addition to the blood donation experience!