The extent to which virtual reality can make people more empathetic to the lives of others is the focus of this project.
Through a headset and other technologies the user is taken out of their present reality and into a new one. In a virtual reality, the user can then explore their virtual environment and immerse themselves in it and perhaps be transformed in some way.
There have been a number of interesting initiatives in attempting to transform people’s understanding of individuals who may be marginalised in our society. For example, filmmaker Chris Milk created a virtual reality experience in a Jordanian refugee camp. Meanwhile, the UK’s National Autistic Society have created a VR experience which mimics the sensory overload that is often felt by people with autism in public places.
Such initiatives present some real possibilities, but we are interested in whether they are effective in terms of building empathy, and if so, is the empathy truly authentic as defined within psychology. Other areas we will be investigating with collaborators include the affordances, technological acceptance, information experience, and practical applications of VR.
The first phase of the understanding VR project will be laboratory setup. This will be followed by seeking collaborators for prototyping and exploratory studies. For more information, contact the Senior Digital Innovator.