Doctors in a domed laboratory in Canada are designing a virtual world where they hope to one day treat traumatized children with colorful avatars using toy-like medical gadgets.

Sensory stimulation could be used to make a burn victim feel she is encased in a block of ice. Three-dimensional images of a child's bedroom at home could make him forget he is in a hospital.

At the Satosphere, an 18-meter-wide (60-foot) dome originally designed to provide spectators with a 360-degree view of art projections, the team has set up a hospital room, or "living lab", to try out new treatment ideas.

The dome, touted by Satosphere president Monique Savoie as a "cinema for the 21st century," is a scion of the Circle-Vision theatre unveiled at the 1967 International and Universal Exposition's Bell Pavilion in Montreal.

Another tool being tested by the doctors would allow them to give medical gadgets the appearance of fantastical, non-threatening toys.

Children would in theory be able to familiarize themselves with "scary" medical instruments, like syringes, easing common fears over medical tests and treatments.