Empathy and the Promise of Virtual Reality

An IDEO prototyping workshop

March 1, 2016
Reading Time
2 minutes

At IDEO, empathy is in our DNA. We begin every project by doing observation and research aimed at gaining an understanding of, and subsequent empathy for, the people for whom we are designing.

Because of this, many of us at IDEO are excited about the promise of virtual reality. Director Chris Milk gave an inspiring TED Talk, “How virtual reality can create the ultimate empathy machine.” Likewise, the New York Times has begun capturing and telling virtual reality stories via their new NYT VR app, and in a recent piece called “Where Virtual Reality Takes Us,” Times contributor Danfung Dennis writes, “In V.R., we instinctively feel a surge of empathy for those whose experiences we are immersed in.”

As someone who enjoys gauging the effectiveness of new methodologies and technologies in how they augment or transform the way we design, I’ve lately been exploring a pair of VR prototyping technologies, the new VRComponent in Framer Studio and Mozilla’s A-frame.

Further, as someone who enjoys teaching and sharing knowledge via workshops, I connected with a colleague, film and commercial director and designer Dav Rauch, about tag-teaming an internal VR-themed workshop for our colleagues.

On a Tuesday afternoon, a multidisciplinary group of IDEO designers gathered for our event, the inaugural San Francisco edition of Nerd Night, a monthly workshop series founded five years ago by a Chicago colleague and me. Dav detailed his editorial and effects pipeline, while I walked attendees through the process of creating a pair of VR prototypes, first with Framer Studio and second with Mozilla’s A-frame.

Dav and I are happy to now share our workshop efforts publicly. IDEO SF VR Nerd Night in 3 Acts: VR Prototyping x 2 + VR Editorial & Effects Pipeline is now live on Github.

IDEO SF VR Nerd Night Poster

Chemistry Cat, the official meme of Nerd Night