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.
Daniel Cheetham, CEO at Happy Finish
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.