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Video: Why virtual reality conceivably is the ultimate empathy machine

December 15, 2016
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By Allen Tung

Virtual reality was not just fun and games at SFU when students from the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) showcased their term projects earlier this month.

This semester’s IAT 445 Immersive Environments course, taught by SIAT professor Bernhard Riecke, challenged students to design an immersive and interactive virtual environment that evoked empathy in a meaningful way.

Their final projects really delivered. For example, one project allows users to experience what it feels like to suffer from psychosis while another lets users witness the damage humans are inflicting on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

The students’ 10 projects are immersive because they activate not only our senses but also our imagination, so that users feel as if they have been transported from the physical to the virtual world. 

"I see virtual reality as a great asset in terms of combatting mental illness," says Stuart Lord, one of the students behind Parallel Minds. "Not just a gaming tool but as a tool maybe used by professionals as a form of therapy."