Empathy Walk

Empathy Walk was inspired by one of the most impactful experiences Judy’s had at Hamilton College. It was during residential advisor training when she participated in the Walk of Privilege exercise.

The Walk of Privilege starts off by lining participants up side by side. The facilitator reads a set of instructions and members of the group will step forward or backward depending on the statement. Some examples are: “If you can find Band-Aids at mainstream stores designed to blend in with or match your skin tone, take one step forward,” and “If you come from a single-parent household, take one step back.” Each individual can see where they stand amongst everyone else at the end.

Empathy Walk is a recreation of the exercise in virtual reality. This new medium provides a new level of privacy and accessibility. Users can experience this stimulation alone, but still recognize that each character and their steps represent a real person’s life experiences. More people can try this environment because it is accessibility through the internet. VR gear is not necessary, although it is helpful for an immersive experience.

The cross-platform game engine, Unity, was used to create the environment. Additionally, to handle the processing and graphics, a HP zWorkstation connected to a VR headset was utilized. The VR environment is exported for two platforms, the Oculus Rift and HTC VIVE. It can also be used without a VR headset using the arrow keys and mouse on a computer. These set of tools enables the user to fully and privately immerse themselves in the walk of privilege experience.



Ben Salzman