Virtual reality strengthens empathy for trans people

Body of Mine: Virtual reality strengthens empathy for trans people

Image: Cameron Kostopoulos

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Through virtual body swapping, a VR experience aims to promote empathy for transgender people and understanding of gender dysphoria.

The Body of Mine VR experience allows people to experience gender dysphoria firsthand and gain insight into the lives of transgender people. In the 15-minute VR experience, participants step into the body of another gender and experience real-life conversations with transgender people.

Virtual experience with real-life interviews

At the beginning of the VR experience, you take on the avatar of a different gender and learn about your new body. To create the most accurate body experience in VR, Body of Mine uses the HTC Vive Pro Eye with eye tracking and body trackers, as well as hand tracking from Leap Motion.

As a result, the movements of the avatar you see in a virtual mirror, for example, resemble your own movements. The project was developed by Cameron Kostopoulos, who emphasizes that the main goal is to encourage people to think about their own gender identity.

When you touch certain parts of your body, the avatar lights up and an audio interview begins. Body of Mine includes about twenty interviews with transgender people talking about their personal experiences with their bodies.

Award-winning VR experience

Throughout the experience, you’ll immerse yourself in different bodies. Gender is not defined, as Body of Mine is meant to be thought-provoking. Users are encouraged to decide for themselves how they define body and gender, or how certain body shapes feel.

“Body of Mine” premiered at SXSW 2023 and won the Special Jury Award in the XR Experience competition. There is no home version yet. However, those interested can sign up for early access on the official website.

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