The Empathy Studio at the University of Galway is the first of its kind in Ireland. 

The Studio combines the science of human behaviour with the art of human centred design and utilise and ‘me’ and ‘we’ empathy into action approach. The Studio offers consideration of the deeper layers of the human experience, using technology and human simulation in increasingly intimate ways that capture the essence of our real, messy, human selves. 

The methods used in the Empathy Studio are different from what you will see elsewhere as they explore feelings, experiences and place the human at the centre of the problems we are trying to solve.  An empathetic journey combines design thinking, a practice that blends ideas from art, film and other storytelling media with the core practices of research, inquiry and product or service design.  The Studio will focus on the ‘how’ of empathy and will focus on developing empathic individuals and teams.  The Studio will use a variety of empathy training approaches to train and further develop empathy within our student groups.

Harmonising Human Centeredness and Technology: To harmonise the human centeredness of empathy with technology the Studio will utilise a multidimensional approach to experiences that includes an understanding of what other people are feeling (cognitive empathy) and feelings of care and concern in response to scenarios. To maximise the empathic journey of our participants the following approaches will be utilised: 

Human SimulationHuman Simulation occurs synchronously when one person who is purposefully trained interacts with a learner, often in a modified role-play format, to provide them with an active learning opportunity to practice a skill set.  The Empathy Studio will craft and curate experiences with trained and trainee actors (including students of the Centre for Drama and Performance in University of Galway) to role-play scenarios that participants will be immersed in. Scenarios will include enactments, interviews, observations and recordings to support empathy development in relation to customer discovery. Human simulations include vision, taste, touch and olfaction (smell). Depending upon the specific experiences these additional simulation techniques will be used to support the participant’s empathetic journey.  The Studio includes an observation deck to support observation and monitoring of activities (with consent). 

Virtual Reality:  The virtual reality dimension of the Studio will include a wide variety of virtual experiences and technologies including immersive virtual environments (IVE) using headsets, augmented reality that adds a layer of virtual experience onto the real world via devices including smartphones, as well as haptic gloves, spatialized surround sound, and more recently developed scent masks. In order to acknowledge the large number of experiences and technologies captured under the common parlance of “virtual reality” the Studio defines VR as any computer technology that virtually simulates one or more senses (auditory, visual, olfactory, gustatory, and/or tactile simulations). 

The following technologies will be available within the Empathy Studio:

Simulation suits: The Studio will be home to a number of simulation suits including a ‘Senior Suit’, which allows users to self-experience old age. The suit allows a realistic simulation of the twenty major physical changes, which change the way a person interacts with the world. 

Infant simulators: The Studio will also have an infant simulator. The simulator will offer a unique learning aid to support creating innovations for infants.  The simulator will have wireless programming to support and track behaviours.

Haptic Gloves: Gloves replicate how your skin reacts to a real object would. With 133 points of tactile feedback per hand.

Scent Masks: Scent masks have a curated batch of smells that support the immersiveness of the VR experience.  

The benefits of cultivating an empathic culture:

  • Our students and programme participants will be happier with an increased sense of worth and feeling heard, respected, and valued 
  • Our students and programme participants with non-technical backgrounds will get access to and support leveraging technology to develop solution directions
  • Our student teams will be stronger, more engaged, and more capable of collaborating around difficult conversations and interpersonal challenges
  • Potential  customers and users will be more satisfied with the products, services, and experiences developed 
  • Our programme will be more robust, resilient and responsive to societal and commercial needs
  • Companies that work with us can access talented, skilled and highly motivated teams and individuals
  • Companies can develop challenges and use the supports available to ideate or prototype concepts
  • Companies can leverage the technologies and supports available to support their staff training needs on a case by case basis
  • The potential for innovative solutions directions are higher and more human centric