A virtual reality experience to build empathy skills in children in a classroom setting.

Client: MindCet

Role: UX, project management, visual communications

Dates: October 2015 – April 2016


MindCET is an EdTech innovation center which brings together entrepreneurs, educators and researchers to develop innovative groundbreaking educational technology in Israel and beyond. MindCETeX is its’ in-house R&D incubator based in Yeruham in the Negev desert, where designers like me as well as developers and entrepreneurs live and work together for 6 months to create EdTech products with the local community.

Me and my partner Gilad Salhov were tasked with leveraging VR to teach kids about empathy, continuing an app previously developed at MindCETeX called I Am the Other in which users were placed in the perspective of an animal.


Our research revealed that teachers often try to teach empathy and tolerance but encounter difficulties generating meaningful discussion and getting the students to really internalize the lessons.

We realized that although there was plenty of available resources and materials, they provided an outsiders’ perspective and little space for the kids to emotionally connect and identify with the subjects on a personal level. Other factors that contributed to the difficulties teachers faced were the time constraints of a 45 minute class and the distractions kids created for each other to really open up in public to an emotionally complex and demanding discussion.

Teachers needed a fast, direct, emotionally powerful way to convey to their students what it feels like to be someone very different from them. Immersive VR technology has a unique ability to meet that need, by offering a safe space to see the perspectives of others in a first person, “walk-in-the-shoes” experience.


We conducted surveys, interviews with teachers and students, landscape mapping, a tech review and field observations. Using product value canvases and a co-creation workshop we conducted with teachers we brainstormed different possible narratives and experiences. Based on our insights, we developed 2 experiences for the library using the Unity game development engine, each going through several iterations of development and user testing with local kids.

We developed the experiences for the affordable and scalable Google Cardboard, so an entire classroom of students could go through the experiences quickly and simultaneously using their own smartphones and still have plenty of class time to process and discuss.

To meet the file size constraints of smartphones we kept the experiences short, simple and straightforward, while addressing issues around cultural and ethnic differences. We based them on real stories of classroom tension that came up in the research: overcoming a language barrier or the feeling of being rejected because you look different.


We have gone through several rounds of user testing which generated enthusiastic responses from children and adults alike. The final experience reduced the time it took children to express an emotional connection to the subject by 60% compared to a regular lesson, freeing up 15-20 additional minutes per class for a deep discussion and more lasting impact on students. Our app has also been showcased at the 2016 SXSWedu conference in Austin, TX, at a workshop about enhancing learning with VR/AR.

We completed the skin color differences experience in April 2016 for early adapters to download and use. It will be available through MindCET's VR experience library once it launches.

Our experience was also mentioned along with MindCET's other VR work in the 2016 NMC/CoSN Horizon Report on K-12 education.