Stanford’s virtual reality lab cultivates empathy for the homeless — from kqed.org by Rachael Myrow
The burgeoning field of Virtual Reality — or VR as it is commonly known — is a vehicle for telling stories through 360-degree visuals and sound that put you right in the middle of the action, be it at a crowded Syrian refugee camp, or inside the body of an 85-year-old with a bad hip and cataracts. Because of VR’s immersive properties, some people describe the medium as “the ultimate empathy machine.” But can it make people care about something as fraught and multi-faceted as homelessness?
A study in progress at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab explores that question, and I strapped on an Oculus Rift headset (one of the most popular devices people currently use to experience VR) to look for an answer.
A new way of understanding homelessness
The study, called Empathy at Scale, puts participants in a variety of scenes designed to help them imagine the experience of being homeless themselves.