UW student virtual reality projects demonstrate empathy, education, entertainment use cases
When I discovered this project, I was enlightened by the way the students at the University of Washington used virtual and augmented reality technology to help people understand important social issues from someone else’s point of view. This learning approach is teaching empathy and sympathy through interactive virtual simulations on the daily life of someone with a physical disability. The Wheelchair VR Project helps people gain a sense of what it feels like to operate a wheelchair, while trying to move through tight spaces, small bathrooms, and small elevators. They created this VR simulation with a Acer headset and LeapMotion tracking technology, as well as the attachment of bike tires to their chairs.
This project reminded me of our class's empathy/embodiment exercise where we used movement to help our partner embody certain emotions associated with our personal health struggles. Our partner was asked to mimic our body movements as we told the story. When my partner stood on one leg and tilted forward, I felt anxious and unbalanced as I mimicked her movements. I started to have a clearer picture of her health journey by feeling the sensory response of each movement and the physical reaction to that experience. I would love to help create a virtual reality simulation that would help others gain an understanding of the different physical and mental health issues that people of different generations and backgrounds face on a daily basis.