Put on a headset or glasses, and you will be transported to an entirely different world. You could be moving through a business room in China, saving the world as a superhero, or following a girl through a Syrian refugee camp. As a medium, Virtual Reality (VR) has the potential to be the ultimate empathy machine, connecting humans to other humans and nature in a profound way never before seen in any other form of media.

In this class, we will draw on behavioral science and immersive experiences to shed light on the potential of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).  Students will be given a foray into the applications of VR/AR in different industries, understand how the virtual world affects perceptions of self and others, and then reflect on these insights to incorporate these learnings into the real world. Note, the focus of this compressed class is not technical and will focus more on VR than AR.


Before Session 1. Read Syntax and Sage, Sep Kamvar
For each session below, see the curated readings by Courtney Meehan here: https://medium.com/@VREmpathyClass

  • Session 1. Introduction to VR/AR: What is VR and why does it matter?
  • Session 2. VR/AR Playground from 6:15-8:15pm 1/30 in Venture Studio in GSB*  (night time – save date)
  • Session 3. Empathy with self: How can self-empathy in VR help us make better decisions for ourselves?
  • Session 4. Empathy with others: How can VR help us empathize with others?
  • Session 5. Empathy in the world: How are businesses using VR right now?
  • Session 6. Bringing it Back to Reality: Final project and presentations

Students will walk away with an understanding of the potential of VR/AR, insights into designing experiences in those worlds, and reflections that will hopefully enable students to reframe their own lives and make more meaningful choices in real life.

Class Schedule

  • Sessions:  Jan 30 2017, Feb 1,3,13 & 15 3:00 – 5:50 pm. Also save 6:15-8:15 on 1/30 in Co-Lab for the VR/AR Playground
  • Location: GSB NCP Co-Lab (McClelland Bldg 101D in GSB)
  • Questions? Email Simar Mangat 


jennifer aaker glasses

Jennifer Aaker

General Atlantic Professor of Marketing, Stanford Graduate School of Business

Dr. Jennifer Aaker is a behavioral psychologist, author, and the General Atlantic Professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Her research focuses on how meaning and purpose shape the choices individuals make, how money and time are spent in ways that cultivate long lasting happiness, and how technology can be used to positively impact human well-being. With Naomi Bagdonas, she teaches A New Type of LeaderRethinking PurposeHumor: Serious Business, as well as Designing AI to Cultivate Human Well-Being with Dr. Fei-Fei Li with the goal to build machine learning capacities that optimize for human thriving, at the individual level and societal level. Dr. Aaker is widely published in the leading scholarly journals and her work has been featured in a variety of media including The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Atlantic, NPR and Science. She is the recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award from the Society for Consumer Psychology, the Stanford Distinguished Teaching Award, and the MBA Professor of the Year Award in 2019. She also cooks poorly (and is equally proud of that).

Teaching Assistants

Simar Mangat, Jenna Nicholas, Sophie Hamilton, Sophia Pink, Gustavo Torres da Silva, Wendy Tsu