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Temple University Students Utilising VR for Training Empathy

Latest equipment lets users witness circumstances like being homeless and giving patient care. The “Becoming Homeless” virtual reality (VR) simulator puts players in a shabby flat from which they are about to be evicted. They are hounded by a landlord seeking rent, which they cannot afford to pay.

The simulation lets its players gain experience of the entire process of getting evicted from a flat, along with other situations faced by homeless people, such as staying on a bus all night long just to stay warm or being ticketed for sleeping in the car.

Students of Temple University can now gain access to VR-based empathy training simulations at the Loretta C. Duckworth Scholar’s Studio, situated within the Charles Library. The simulations show a first-person perspective of being homeless, along with caregiving situations where players can step into the roles of both patient and nurse. The students had introduced such simulations many years back, when the Health Sciences Library at the University started its collaborative efforts with Embodied Labs, a VR simulation development firm. According to Jordan Hample, an academic IT support technician at the Scholar’s Studio, the objective back then was to integrate VR simulation features into nursing training modules.

Image source: Templenews

Olivia Given Castello, School of Social Work library liaison, remarked that various nursing training concepts are similar to those of social work education. Castello, who teamed up with Hample to help students utilise the VR. According to her, schools are keen on the idea that empathy-building experiences can generate empathy among students and improve their skills as practitioners. With the help of simulations, VR headsets, and CGI visuals, students can explore the struggles faced by patients and prospective clients through the process of empathy training.

According to Hample, empathy training is putting a person within the mind or body of another, to let them get similar experiences and help them understand how to deal with certain situations. Kazmuir Long, a student worker at the Studio assists his peers by helping them utilise the VR equipment. According to him, the simulation is a fun experience for all involved. Long, who is a computer science major at the university, remarked that even people who have had no experience of VR before would enjoy being a part of the simulation experience.

The technology lets students focus on how subjects view the world they are within, as opposed to their reactions to different scenarios. Those taking part in it do not have to carry the knowledge of how to approach homeless clients or care for a person suffering from illness. The simulation guides users through the different illness stages, and this includes moments when one feels visually impaired when the screen is blurry or blacked out. There will also be moments of hearing impairment when one cannot understand what people are saying to them. Hample considers the VR simulation as being advantageous to students, as they will learn how to face some situations in the real-world.

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