The Empathy Machine: Step into another person’s body

Lack of empathy and difficulties to establish emotional connections with others are common among people suffering from mental disorders – and not only. Such issues may result in ill social interactions and isolation, which are aggravating factors in the evolution of the disorders, and eventually will affect their wellbeing.

Our project, impulsed by Curt White from Child Mind, aims at creating the conditions for literally stepping into strangers’ bodies at a physiological level – and hypothetically generating a sense of empathy. Our wearable devices are capable of sensing biosignals such as heartbeats and respiration, exchanging this data between participants over a network, and providing biofeedback which mimic these biosignals. Through this system, each participant should be able to feel a deep connection with one another as they experience each other’s vital signs.

The devices provide a wide breadth of usability, which ranges from psychological therapy, scientific experiments to performing arts. They notably serve as assets in the VR experiment « Machine to be Another’ created by BeAnotherLab. This embodiment system has been designed to address the relation between identity and empathy by offering users an immersive experience that consists in seeing themselves in the body of another person. In addition to the visual experience, the wearable devices could offer a more visceral and immersive empathetic experience.

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