VR’s Superpowers Part 3: Empathy

Immersion, presence, and empathy. These three superpowers are central to VR’s potential as a singular training tool for business. 

In the final installment of this three-part series, we’re wrapping up our deep-dive coverage of the superpowers of VR. Part one of this blog discussed VR’s sense of immersion and the impact of a distraction-free, 360° environment, whereas part two revealed the difference a sense of presence makes in creating engaging and impactful experiences. Finally, the time has come to discuss the superpower of empathy and its potential to affect change within teams, in customer service environments, for diversity and inclusion training, and beyond.


In the past, empathy-driven training has asked users to imagine themselves in someone else’s shoes. VR does away with imagining, and instead places users directly in a new perspective. With VR for training, businesses have a powerful tool to increase awareness, perspective, empathy within users, and a culture of inclusion and caring for their companies.

VR’s ability to bolster empathy is an incredibly valuable asset for organizations in developing frontline employees, managers, and executives alike. Empathy is a critical factor in facilitating healthy and productive communication, strengthening interpersonal connections, resolving and avoiding conflict, increasing efficacy within teams, creating a harassment-free and inclusive workplace, and refining customer service skills. 

In a LinkedIn survey, 91% of companies listed a lack of soft skills as a top concern in 2019. The sense of presence spurred by immersive, photorealistic VR — and the empathy it can produce — are fit to rise to that challenge. For example, an interactive 360° video could be built to allow training managers to terminate a fellow employee, gaining exposure to intense emotions and practicing responding appropriately and sympathetically. The opportunity for users to practice navigating such a situation — repeatedly and with variation — is incredibly valuable for building confidence and providing tools to respond to the real deal.

Additionally, high levels of empathy are linked to improved customer service skills. Fidelity Investments, for example, is taking advantage of VR’s empathy-building capacity to train their customer service associates. Instead of instructor their employees to be empathetic or discussing empathy in theory, Fidelity invested in a VR training program that provides trainees an immersive, interactive peek into the homes of their customers. This interactive, immersive experience has already shown to promote patience, understanding, and compassion within the customer service team, enabling them to be as helpful as possible. By implementing this VR program, Fidelity has experienced a 10% increase in customer satisfaction rates.

VR earned the name “the empathy machine” by making users feel rooted and present in a novel situation or story. Nonprofits, in particular, have been tapping into this potential, notably including Oceans360.org, an organization dedicated to educating people about the importance of conserving the earth’s oceans. Oceans360 partnered with Pixvana to streamline the way they share their passion in an immersive setting, on a large scale. By working with Pixvana, Oceans360 is able to use SPIN Studio’s Guide feature to educate larger audiences about the importance of ocean conservation by taking them from land to sea and discover impactful ways to impact the environment — and, most importantly, inspire the next generation of conservationists. Oceans360 is using this feature to stir empathy within viewers, but businesses can use SPIN Guide to deliver experiences at scale, providing massive experiences that are impactful on both a communal and individual level.

In previous posts, we’ve discussed how VR training shows, rather than tells. By moving from hollow hypotheticals to rich, lived-in experiences, VR helps elicit a genuine and deep-rooted sense of empathy. At Pixvana, we are invested in VR’s potential for education, nonprofit fundraising effort, and empathy-producing, impact-driven training.

Interested in harnessing VR’s unparalleled superpower of empathy? Get in touch with our XR experts today to discuss how a VR training program could make the difference for your organization and its people.

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