University of Galway’s student innovation hub, IdeasLab, has officially launched their Empathy Lab, a physical and virtual learning environment in the heart of campus.
The University of Galway Empathy Lab is the first of its kind in Europe and combines the science of human behaviour with the art of human centred design with Boston Scientific the inaugural enterprise partner.
It has been developed as part of the University’s Designing Futures project, which is funded under the Government’s Human Capital Initiative.
The University of Galway Empathy Lab will enable University of Galway students who want to come up with solutions to specific problems to understand the feelings and experiences of those affected.
Students will use new technologies including simulation suits; infant simulators; haptic gloves; scent masks.
Speaking about the Empathy Lab launch Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President of University of Galway, said: “Respect is a core value of the University and the pathway to respect is paved with empathy and knowledge. Through the University of Galway Empathy Lab, we will work with our partners to further embed empathy as a core attribute that students can develop and practice – supporting and shaping our innovations, placing the lived experience and our society at the heart of what we create with and for others.”
Empathy is the common denominator at the heart of all great collaboration, invention and innovation – it is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference.
The University of Galway Empathy Lab will offer consideration of the deeper layers of the human experience, using technology and human simulation to capture the essence of our real, messy, human selves. It will focus on the how of empathy and developing empathic individuals and teams. Scholars describe empathy as a muscle; as such, it should be capable of growth and regeneration. Following this logic, the lab will use a variety of empathy training approaches to train and further develop students’ appreciation of empathy.
Martin Hynes and Richard Crawford of Boston Scientific are the inaugural enterprise partners who will work alongside students in 2023. Students and their mentors will experience multiple scenarios and simulations to create better ways to innovate with customers and patients in the area of endoscopy procedures.
Dr Natalie Walsh, Director of Entrepreneurial Development and co-lead of the Public Patient Involvement Ignite network in University of Galway, said: “The University of Galway Empathy Lab will take a multidimensional approach to experiences so that we better understand what people are feeling and how innovation can develop to respond to the needs and wants of our society. We will bring technology and people together to give our students unique insights and experiences that can shape future innovations and respond to our society’s most pressing needs.”
University of Galway will also launch a new Empathy in Action module which brings together expertise from across the campus and reflects the many voices and perspectives of empathy and create action oriented and empathetic future leaders and innovators.
Empathy Lab and the new immersive learning environment is being supported through a funding award through the Bodyswaps & Meta’s Immersive Soft Skills Education Grant.
University of Galway’s IdeasLab was one of 100 educational institutions worldwide to be supported and will receive two Meta Quest 2 headsets and three months free access to Bodyswaps VR learning programs.
Dr Walsh added: “This will have a significant impact on soft skills for both students and staff. Building soft skills amongst students will allow higher education institutions around the world to level the playing field and boost opportunities for their students in the competitive global market.”
According data from Bodyswaps, after using this kind of technology as part of their learning experience, 87% of learners report a significant improvement in their self-awareness and knowledge of how to improve their skills and 85% of learners report a significant improvement in their confidence to apply the simulated soft skills in real situations.