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Common Ground VR

Common Ground VR

About this initiative

Digital technology advancement has revolutionized the way we work and think in our everyday lives, but some people are being left behind by the digital economy especially when it comes to product and experience design. What if there was a way digital technology could be used in a more inclusive way to learn from others and innovate? Isobar embraced this idea in developing a multi-disciplinary virtual reality (VR) practice. Due to VR’s sensory depravation abilities, VR is capable of truly transporting the user to new environments while tapping into the senses—and the result of an experience can be a new perspective on empathy for others.

Isobar hosted a weekend international inter-office hackathon with over 50+ individuals creating a VR experience solving a world social issue. The winning app, allows abled-bodied users to see, at first hand, how living with certain conditions (or disabilities) impacts daily activity.


The inspiration for the app came from the real-life experiences of the design team—it is often quite difficult to explain a condition to others, as no one really knows what it is like to live with the condition until they develop it themselves. Since VR is primarily vision based, and transformative in nature, the app focuses on temporarily giving the users vision or line-of-sight issues, like macular degeneration or glaucoma and the experience of restricting an user’s ability to reach (e.g., being in a wheelchair). Empathy develops when one is asked to perform daily tasks, like reading labels or opening doors at the grocery store with little ability to focus or gauge a sense of depth.


The app has toured numerous VR developer conferences, is a mainstay in Isobar’s VR and NowLab innovation portfolio, and has even been shared with some clients offices and in addition to receiving various recognition from media sources like Huffington Post and Forbes.


As the users momentarily experience life from another’s perspective, they remark on the applications the app has for in-store and product design. The true power of the app is that as users experience a condition in a real-life environment, the experience reveals the hidden design biases or assumptions able-bodied people have. Everyone walks away thinking, “Is that what it’s really like?”


Users realize how difficult it is to do things that you may take for granted, like going shopping. Brayden Varr, who was responsible for coordinating the hackathon says that….


The success of Common Ground VR happens when the user feels a sense of empathy and makes the user, for likely the first time, really understand what it’s like to live life differently. Hopefully inspiring creators to put all people in mind when creating spaces, products, packaging and beyond.


Observing the power the transformative experience has, Isobar has begun to integrate a proprietary VR analytics tool into the experience, so the environment can truly be used in usability and compliance testing for both products and environments.