Starbright World:
A Virtual Playground for Seriously Ill Children

From November 1994 to February 1996 I was the creative director and producer at Worlds, Inc. of the initial system for the Starbright World project.

Commissioned by the Starbright Foundation, my team and I worked with its chairman, Steven Spielberg, to develop a 3-D virtual world in which seriously ill children in hospitals all over the United States could meet via a network to play, discuss their concerns via text chat, audio or video conferencing, and forget the boredom and pain of hospital routine. I developed the initial concept for the world in discussions with doctors and child psychologists and managed the team that built the virtual world in close collaboration with Spielberg.

Seriously ill children are often dependent on technology and machines; they cannot leave their rooms to run and play outside. But just as Toulouse-Lautrec and Frida Kahlo used fantasy and art to escape the confines of their illnesses, we hoped to provide a world in which children could regain a sense of bodily freedom, and which they could also shape to be their own.


We created fantasy landscapes filled with animals, magic portals and places to explore, as well as the Build Your Own Zone (BYOZ) in which kids could use blocks and basic objects to create their own environments.

This 3D version of Starbright World ran at several children’s hospitals in the USA between 1995-1997, but during that time the interactive 3D technology remained very unstable. Additionally, as I recommended in my concept study, the Starbright Foundation wanted to go beyond a simple playground concept to develop a true online community, but this meant the children needed access to the system at home as well as in hospitals.

These two considerations led Starbright in 1997 to replace the 3D version of Starbright World with a multimedia website that was more stable and accessible for an average family. It was the right decision for the needs of the children, but it meant the end of a pioneering experiment in online 3D community.

See the Internet Archive for a video of our demo from 1995.