Proof that virtual reality is effective as an empathy tool
Objective: To create a powerful, empathy-driven VR experience for Ford, encouraging drivers and cyclists to ‘Share The Road’ safely and adapt their behaviour.
The WheelSwap VR experience is part of Ford’s wider ‘Share The Road’ campaign, which promotes driver and cyclist harmony in a bid to make urban areas safer, reduce congestion and ultimately protect road users.
Having worked with Happy Finish and immersive technology before, Ford knew that VR would be the perfect medium to help opposing road users understand each other’s frustrations and make a change.
Our approach: Our capture team, armed with a Z Cam and stunt actors, shot the films in Barcelona, Spain. We produced two films to help generate an empathetic response: one from a cyclist’s point of view and another from a driver’s point of view.
WheelSwap enables motorists to see how scary it can be for cyclists when drivers overtake dangerously, do not indicate and open car doors without checking. The alternative version of the experience allows cyclists to see what it’s like for drivers when they cycle dangerously and jump red lights, cycle down one-way streets or swerve unexpectedly.
“There is no more effective means of appreciating someone else’s point of view than stepping into their shoes, or in this case, on to their pedals. Empathy is an immensely powerful emotion”, claims behavioural scientist Dan Berry who helped devise the experiment.
Ford conducted research to test how effective the experience was in evoking empathy and changing behaviour amongst users.
Over 1200 people across 5 different European countries watched the VR experience and took part in the initial research. The results were overwhelmingly in favour of VR being effective as a tool for empathy:
- 91% of people who used the WheelSwap experience intended to change their behaviour.
- 70% of those who used WheelSwap displayed greater empathy to their driving and cycling counterparts after watching the VR experience compared to those who had not.
- Within 2 weeks of taking part, 60% of participating drivers and cyclists changed their on-road habits.
Daniel Cheetham, Happy Finish Global CEO stated. ‘Being early practitioners in the creation of highly immersive VR experiences, we anecdotally already knew the power of such a level of immersion and the potential that has to prompt behavioural change. It’s genuinely exciting to now have hard scientific evidence to that effect. Working with the team at Ford and WPP over the past couple of years has been great, and we are particularly proud of our work together that increases road user’s attention to safety. If our work helps to save just one life on the road, then our mission is accomplished.’
Ford is now integrating the WheelSwap experience into its driver training program for 17-24 year olds, Driving Skills For Life – it will sit alongside the Reality Check experience we helped them with last year.
Director: Elliot Graves
Producer: Rain Osgood
Exec. Producer: Julian Anderson
360° Camera: Jamie Mossahebi
VFX Editor: James Brown
VFX: Matt Gazzard
VFX: Stefano Pasotti
Graphics: Elliot Graves
Developer: Sebastian Kedra