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Virtual reality (VR) is often referred to as the ‘empathy machine’ since it doesn’t just show you other people’s experiences. You can momentarily be in their experience and live through it yourself.

Research has shown that immersing yourself in the story being told engages users and increases feelings of empathy towards the subject being shown. Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab studied this topic using a VR experience about homelessness. They found that those who took part in the VR experience were more likely to feel empathetic towards the homeless than those who learnt about the same topic in a different way, such as reading or viewing the content on a computer.

This is one of the many reasons why so many University courses have turned to using the technology. Empathy enables us to understand other people’s experiences, VR makes it feel more real, and Shared VR enhances the experience for whole groups of people - it literally brings them together in the heart of the experience.

Sky put this into practice when we worked with it in 2017, on a hugely successful Ocean Rescue campaign that aimed to help protect our oceans by eliminating the use of single-use plastic packaging. The VR Creative working on the project with us told us, “when you show your film in a headset it’s amazing, but it’s a lonely experience. With Igloo, you’ve all been there together, you’ve got the message together, and you can discuss it together.”

A more recent example of where this has also been used is with Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) which has one of our immersive cylinders on its campus in Finland. The cylinder is being used by a number of different courses for a multitude of reasons, including enhancing empathy.

Students on TAMK’s Fine Art course have been creating 360° videos to convey important stories alongside helping others to understand concepts.

One of the videos shown in the clip is called ‘73 seconds’, which is designed to bring attention to sexual assault and rape (in America a woman is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds). ‘Ice Castle’ tackles destroying the intangible mental barriers that we build around us to protect ourselves. Others explore homeland connections, animal rights, rituals and spiritual journeys, which you can see in the below video. 

The Igloo is being used to share these 360° videos with others at the university, allowing for engaging viewings and discussions on the topics covered. The university has found this to be the most effective way to display the content, as it found it was often limited by the constraints of a VR headset.

Immersive spaces, like the cylinder shown in the video, remove these constraints often found with headsets. They still allow users to be fully immersed in the content shown but enable multiple audience members to view the content at the same time which opens the floor for deeper understanding and collaboration, something that university students find really helpful for their studies.

The 360° film becomes a shared experience and, for most people, that makes it a more powerful experience. The audience gets the message together, can discuss it together and relate to one another, all of which can help to enhance empathy.

We will be covering more from Tampere University of Applied Sciences soon so stay tuned for a full case study.

In the meantime, you can read more about how the students found using the cylinder in iWeekTAMK's latest blog post here.


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  1. Find out how Igloo technology can work for you
    Explore our range of products, including cubes, domes, cylinders, immersive workspaces and Immersive Media Players.

    Find out how the Igloo software can take any content from any source in any format and put it into a shared immersive space.

    Understand more about the applications for Igloo immersive technology, including collaboration, simulation, visualisation, and experiences.

    Check out our collection of case studies and our videos for inspiration.

  2. Learn how you can partner with us
    We’re always on the lookout for content creators who live and breathe the immersive medium - and so our are clients. So, we’d love to hear from you!

    If you’re a systems integrator with a client looking to create an immersive installation, find out how our Immersive Media Player can help you. We can help advise on all the quirks as well as the characteristics of immersive installations.

    See how you can integrate your software with the flexible, content-agnostic Igloo platform, and offer your clients a way to experience your tools in a shared immersive space.

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