Designing Immersive Experiences with Empathy

Ed Johnston
Assistant Professor
Michael Graves College
Robert Busch School of Design
Kean University

One essential component in the vast majority of design thinking methodologies is the importance of empathy. As designers, we have the opportunity to understand and share the feelings of another, articulate pain points within a situation and develop solutions to those pain points.

With the emergence of mobile virtual reality and augmented reality, designers can begin to develop novel solutions to some daunting and exciting questions. What if we could help someone travel through time to the past and see things as they once were? What if we could transport someone into a space, which they cannot reach? What if we could help distract someone from feeling chronic pain or loneliness?

I have been working with students and creative researchers on projects to respond to some of these questions. In my Liberty Hall 360 research initiative, I have been using immersive technologies, including 360-degree video and augmented reality, to address a variety of needs within Liberty Hall Museum. These needs include accessibility and enrichment of the museumgoer’s experience to feel a stronger sense of presence within historic moments.
In this presentation, I will share the development of my collaborative projects and some inspirational projects by other creative researchers, which are establishing the experiential and therapeutic significance of the application of immersive technologies. In addition, I will put forth an argument for the importance of incorporating immersive technologies into design education curricula.