Deep subjectivity and empathy in virtual reality
a case study on the autism tmi virtual reality experience
The Autism Too Much Information (TMI) Virtual Reality Experience is a virtual reality (VR) application produced by The National Autistic Society (NAS) as part of an awareness campaign. The design of the application creates a short narrative simulation from a first-person perspective, which conveys aspects of what it may be like for a child on the autistic spectrum to experience a stressful situation precipitated by environments with "too much information". The application is part of a recent trend in VR and 360-degrees video, to create simulations of subjective experience, as a means to generate empathy. Yet the success of such tools depends significantly on how well sound and graphics can be used to communicate such experiences in a meaningful way. In this article, we provide a case study of the Autism TMI Virtual Reality Experience, as a means to unpack design issues for these simulations. Through an expert analysis and pilot study of user experience, we propose three distinct forms of subjective first-person simulation that may be produced in virtual reality. We argue that the Autism TMI Virtual Reality Experience exemplifies the third of these: "deep subjectivity", which may lead to an improved sense of empathy by representing various aspects of multimodal perception and emotion. However, our study also suggests that VR may offer limited benefits over 360-video for generating a sense of empathy.
Weinel, J. , Cunningham, S. , Pickles, J. (2018)., Deep subjectivity and empathy in virtual reality: a case study on the autism tmi virtual reality experience, in M. Filimowicz & V. Tzankova (eds.), New directions in third wave human-computer interaction I, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 183-203.
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