The Empathy Business is Growing Quickly

Empathy is the ability to share and understand the feelings of another person, as compared to sympathy, or feeling sorrow or pity for someone, it means putting yourself in their shoes. Technologists are doing just that.

Empathy is the ability to share and understand the feelings of another person. In other words, as compared to sympathy, or feeling sorrow or pity for someone, it means putting yourself in their shoes.

Technologists are doing just that. This year, virtual reality (VR) headsets including Oculus Rift and HTC Vive hit the consumer gaming market, while Google Cardboard offers a limited VR experience via the smartphone. Augmented reality (AR) adds a virtual digital layer to our smartphone screens and mixed reality blends physical and digital elements.

Immersive technology creates empathy by putting the individual at the center of every experience, and it has broadened its reach from gaming and entertainment to news, documentaries, education and healthcare. Jane Gauntlett’s In My Shoes project used VR to make a first-person perspective short film about her experience of epilepsy. And now it is giving brands new ways to foster electronic empathy by linking virtual, physical and emotional realities.

Researchers are also improving empathic computing. As explained by computer scientists, empathic computing is an emergent paradigm that enables a system to understand human states and feelings and to share this intimate information. The new paradigm is made possible by the convergence of affordable sensors, embedded processors and wireless ad-hoc networks. The power law for multiresolution channels and mobile-stationary sensor webs is introduced to resolve the information avalanche problems. As empathic computing is sensor-rich computing, particular models such as semantic differential expressions and inverse physics are discussed. It is found that the location of the wearable sensor is sensitive to the results. From the machine learning algorithm, the accuracy reaches up to 90% from 21 simulated trials. Empathic computing is not limited to healthcare. It can also be applied to solve other everyday-life problems such as management of emails and stress.

Oncotalk,” a course required of Duke’s oncology fellows, is a way to teach doctors empathy. Developed by medical faculty at Duke, the University of Pittsburgh, and several other medical schools, “Oncotalk” is part of a burgeoning effort to teach doctors an essential but often overlooked skill: clinical empathy. Unlike sympathy, which is defined as feeling sorry for another person, clinical empathy is the ability to stand in a patient’s shoes and to convey an understanding of the patient’s situation as well as the desire to help.

These are some indications that the empathy business is growing. Clinicians and medical educators are teaching and using it to improve the patient experience and outcomes. Marketers are using it to engage patient-customers. Biopharma and medtech companies will probably be deploying it to educate and inform patients and doctors. Combined with other forms of AI and behavioral economic theory, it could be more than just a game changer, it could be a behavior changing game...all on your smart phone.