A connected light experience that keeps families together


“It’s heart-wrenching for parents to be separated from their kids, especially during treatment. Blink can connect our families in the simplest, most beautiful way possible.”

– Lisa Mitchell, VP Programs & Services at RMHC-CNI


Children with serious illnesses often need to travel great distances for necessary medical treatment. This separates them from family, friends and the day-to-day life they know. For these families, Ronald McDonald House Charities offer a home away from home near the child’s treatment facility to keep these families together.

Science has proven that children heal faster when near the ones they love. The simple truth is, love heals.

But in stressful times of healing, expressing love is not always easy. Separated from their child overnight or during treatment, parents find themselves at a loss for words. We wondered, what if we could use technology to keep families close without needing any words at all?



Blink is the digital articulation of the Ronald McDonald House Charity mission brought to life through technology. 



The idea

Blink is an innovative physical-to-digital experience that keeps families connected. This custom-built set of devices gives families an unspoken language of love through light during moments of separation and anxiety.

Triggered by gestures, color-coded messages are exchanged between two orbs. 

Blink impacts two harsh realities that families of seriously ill children face: 1) Necessary separation from their child at night or during treatment, and 2) A struggle to communicate and find words of comfort during stressful times

By breaking down barriers of age, language, social complexity and discomfort, Blink simplifies the act of showing love and support during illness.



A simple, easy-to-remember language is at the heart of this idea. Shaking one Blink sends the corresponding orb a green-illuminated message saying “Hello.” Two taps send a blue-hued “Good Night,” and three taps send a glowing pink “I love you.”

To extend Blink beyond the two connected orbs, we created an online experience that allows extended family and friends to send love directly to the child’s Blink from anywhere in the world.

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“When a child is alone in the hospital, Blink lights up that darkness and brings their family into the room when they physically can’t be together.

This is something we’ve never been able to do before.”

– Lisa Mitchell, VP Programs & Services at RMHC-CNI

the devices

To create this experience, we leveraged the Particle IoT device platform, combining an accelerometer and Electron that interprets a series of touch and gesture interactions. Finding the perfect balance of sensitivity was key in meeting the needs of children receiving treatment. When a gesture is detected, the Electron translates the message and sends it to the cloud through a 3G connection. The message is then routed to the corresponding Blink, where a set of 6 LEDs flash the message as a sequence of colored lights.

For construction of the device, we collaborated with a children’s hospital to validate that the materials and components passed hospital regulations and to ensure successful data connectivity. 



Blink was piloted with real Ronald McDonald House families. They reported that the device was easy to use and created a sense of connectedness while undergoing treatment; a critical aspect of their well-being. They felt Blink was a positive addition to their stay the house and would recommend its use for other families of sick children.



With national rollout anticipated, the Blink experience could be introduced to more than 300 houses, impacting thousands of families each year. Our goal is to evolve and test Blink to meet the needs of sick children, as well as patients of all ages with physical and communication impairments. 


“Blink is going to have an incredible impact to children and our families.”

– Holly Buckendahl, CEO RMHC-CNI