Giving Compass' Take:

Heeju Kim created a virtual reality toolkit to help people develop empathy and understanding for individuals with autism.

What other virtual reality technology can help bridge gaps for marginalized communities and crate more empathy in the world?

Read about how some classrooms can take their students on virtual field trips.

Heeju Kim wants people to fathom what it would be like to be incapable of reading others’ body language and to be perpetually inundated with strange, troublesome noises. The end goal is to give you insight into the sensory and motor challenges that individuals with autism spectrum disorder face, and in turn, cultivate greater empathy.

Kim, 29, has spent many years trying to better understand the experiences of her 27-year-old brother who has the disorder. In addition to various sensory issues, her brother is affected by apraxia of speech, making it hard for him to turn thoughts into intelligible speech. While they were growing up, Kim observed in her brother’s school classrooms that other kids were reluctant to interact with him. Taking what she learned from those experiences and the extensive literature on the disorder, Kim created a virtual reality experience called “An Empathy Bridge for Autism” in 2016 as a master’s student at the Royal College of Art in London, England.

“I thought virtual reality has the potential to make an impact on the way we approach patient care or helping the disabled,” Kim said.

“An Empathy Bridge for Autism” is a toolkit that includes three virtual sensory components, including peculiarly shaped lollipops that make it hard to speak clearly, headphones that produce loud, distorted sounds, and a headset that, when used in tandem with a smartphone application, simulates the experience of having double vision. In similar fashion, designer Di Peng created a virtual reality headset in 2016 that imitates the sensory changes experienced by people living with dementia.

Virtual reality activities may help cultivate empathy in people by creating the perceptual illusion of “embodiment,” or the feeling that a user is in the body of a virtual avatar, according to a 2018 article published in the journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI.

Read the full article about virtual reality helps create empathy by Liz Brazile at YES! Magazine