It’s undeniable; people are biased. Racial bias is found in all people of all races in most all situations. One place where race has no power is the virtual world. Alexandra Ivanovitch and a team of artists and designers developed a virtual reality that battles prejudice. Ivanovitch is the social interpreter of the whole project. Her goal is to create mobile virtual reality apps that positively impact social situations, and she’s now launched a startup to help her reach her goals.
Today the world is lacking empathy. Racism is on a rise and its spreading across the world. People are treating others in ways that they would not if they considered what if feels like to be on the receiving end of racial biases. Recent virtual reality experiments show that when people see what others see, they can empathize on a higher level.
Ivanovitch is not alone in her mission. She builds her idea off of the foundations of Mel Slater’s work. Slater conducted an interesting experiment at the University of Barcelona. In his study he had two Caucasian women enter a virtual reality where they were themselves, only with darker skin. Virtual reality is highly developed to the point where people feel they are in realistic situations. These women experienced being themselves, the people they’ve always been, just with darker skin. The study reported that for the time they lived in a virtual world, their racial bias significantly decreased.
“In the real world, we form opinions about ourselves through bias informed through our own body. But VR can have us identify with a wide variety of avatars – people who don’t look and sound like us. VR helps us free our body from the limitations of our minds,” Ivanovitch says.
Her work and ideas are found in art festivals and museums, but Ivanovitch plans to deploy her work in places that need them the most. She decided that the American police force is in need of help when it comes to racial bias. The entrepreneur highlights the fact that African Americans are seven times more likely to be shot by police than Caucasians. “Nearly half of all hate crimes are to do with race in the US. There is an empathy gap, and that has manifested itself tragically in police brutality.” So far she’s secured contacts in the National Police Foundation and the Mayor of Los Angeles. Hopefully, Ivanovitch plan will work, and she will be able to fill that gap.