As virtual reality becomes more available and widespread, there are more interesting applications of this technology. Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) at Stanford has created a VR experience that lets you put yourself in someone else’s shoes. In their project, they use VR to show you what it’s like to be homeless.
The name of the project is Becoming Homeless: A Human Experience. It was a part of a study carried out by Stanford, which included over 500 participants. This is a vast number of people for VR studies according to VHIL’s project manager Elise Ogle.
The ideas behind the project are driven by our irrational tendency to blame others when bad things happen to them, but blame external situations when something bad happens to us. Many people believe that the homeless are to blame for losing their homes. The goal of Becoming Homeless: A Human Experience is to change this point of view.
This VR experience takes you through situations in the life of someone who can no longer afford a home. You can interact with your environment and try to save your home, protect yourself and your belongings.
According to Ogle, this VR experience was created to “examine whether it’s possible to use the technology to make you feel empathy for people that you perceive as being different from you.” She explains that VR has a greater impact on people’s empathy than traditional media like TV and print. It gives you a sort of a “psychological presence,” it feels more real and thus can affect your attitude more.
As Resource Magazine points out, the problem with the project is relatively poor graphics which could hinder the impact of the experience. Still, I think the idea is great and has a lot of potential. Using VR to educate people and make them more empathic sounds very interesting and intriguing. With the development of graphics and technology, I believe we could see how strong the impact of such approach will be. If you want to check out the Becoming Homeless: A Human Experience, it is available for download via Steam.