File photo: A woman tries on earphones and a headset used for virtual reality at the Venice Virtual Reality a competition during 74th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, August 29, 2017. Virtual reality can make humans more understanding to realities different from their own, according to a new study. Research participants who tried out a VR experience about losing your job and becoming homeless showed stronger and longer-lasting empathic attitudes toward the homeless versus those who just read an article about homelessness. The findings were recently published in PLOS ONE. "Experiences are what define us as humans," Jeremy Bailenson, a co-author of the paper, said in a statement.
Henry, a VR animated short about a hedgehog, received an Emmy for Outstanding Original Interactive Program. It's part of the juried Emmy awards given before the ceremony on Sept. 18, and it's the first piece of VR narrative to win such an award. The eight-minute short was produced by Oculus Story Studio, an internal division of the VR headset maker focused on crafting narrative that works best in virtual reality. Dau's animation background may have prepared him for this role in some ways, but he said VR short films are now having to throw out much of the rules.
In movies artificial intelligence is usually depicted with sci-fi images of robots, cyborgs and other dehumanized creatures. For many, the word is misunderstood and creepy. The truth is AI is helping us live more self-actualized lives in more ways than we can imagine. The intersection of AI technology and human communication is a hotbed of activity as chatbots and virtual assistants become requirements for everyday tasks and productivity. The artificial intelligence that powers so many of the products we know and love can be divided into two categories: conversational and experiential.
Another middle school teacher who dropped his students into the virtual lives of refugees was Charles Herzog in Londonderry, Vermont, whose class tried VR in December near the end of a unit about forced migration. The Google Cardboard viewers that Herzog's students used were bought by his partner in the project, the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at the University of Vermont. According to Tarrant's professional development coordinator, Rachel Mark, empathy education fits into Vermont's required "Transferable Skills," specifically "Responsible and Involved Citizenship," which includes the ability to "demonstrate ethical behavior and the moral courage to sustain it."
What do games do for us--and what do we owe them for that? It's an odd question, but it seems to come up, in one form or another, whenever a gaming controversy hits the news. Gaming is no longer a young medium, but it's still somewhat opaque from the outside, which makes games an easy target for crusades from those wont to crusade: most recently, with local-news insistences that Fortnite is rotting your children's brains. But every question about gaming's value is met, within the world of videogaming, with a chorus insisting that games are good for you, games are your friend, and--perhaps most concretely--games actually make you more empathetic. It's this assumption that buoys the Games for Change Festival, the 15th edition of which begins today in New York, as well as a dozen other games advocacy groups.