Virtual Reality: A Doorway to Empathy?

There has been a lot of buzz around virtual reality technology lately, with the New York Times leading the charge via its new virtual app featured for the first time a few weeks ago.

Though the medium is still in its nascent phases, many people—myself included—are excited about its potential to foster greater understanding and empathy in audiences via deeply immersive storytelling experiences.

Imagine the power of patients’ stories in which you can acutely experience the nature of their journeys—the trepidation, the perceptions of their family members, the joy in recovery or the sorrow of loss. Or what it would be like to go into our most underserved communities and feel what the most marginalized among us go through each day and each night.

This kind of captivation has always been the goal of any kind of storytelling—whether oral traditions, the written word or video. But the potential of virtual reality to open doors into the actual reality of others is awe inspiring.

The old cliché is that you can’t really understand someone until “you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” Now—and even more powerfully in the future—you’ll be able to walk that mile while sitting down anywhere in the world.

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