The Application of Embodied Cognition to Haptic Devices for Mental Well-Being
Sophia Brueckner / USA
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
“An empathy box is the most personal possession you have. It’s an extension of your body; it’s the way you touch other humans, it’s the way you stop being alone.”
“I had hold of the handles of the box today and it overcame my depression a little…I felt everyone else, all over the world, who had fused at the same time.”
– Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
In Dick’s novel, thousands of anonymous people connect haptically and emotionally through their empathy boxes in a lonely world. Inspired by the story, the Empathy Box and Empathy Amulet are two networked devices that connect many anonymous people through shared warmth.
Incorporating ideas from embodied cognition as well as cognitive behavioral therapy, both devices use physical warmth to cultivate empathy and a novel sense of connection with anonymous others. The devices encourage their users to make a deliberate and generous rate reciprocity into their design, such that helping oneself means helping other people. The Empathy Box explores synchronous connection, while the Empathy Amulet uses asynchronous connection allowing the user to experience the shared warmth unconsciously.