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UArizona researchers working on anti-racism program

VR headset
Posted at 7:51 AM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 10:28:50-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A new pilot program is in the works at the University of Arizona to combat racism and discrimination using virtual and augmented
reality technology.

Researchers on the project were just awarded $50,000 to continue developing the pilot program called, 'Anti-Racism Extended Reality Studio.'

"When you think about what the national conversation is, it's all about race, and inclusivity at this point, and divisiveness within our culture and part of that defensiveness really comes from ignorance about other cultures in the mediation,” said Dr. Bryan Carter,

That’s why Dr. Carter, Dr. Jill Barbara, Sonja Lanehard, Cynthia Stokes, and Ash Black are working to give people the opportunity to learn by picking up a virtual reality headset or picking up a phone or tablet.

"We wanted to create something that would allow people to experience the lives of others, different ethnicities, different demographics, religious affiliations, etc,” explained Dr. Carter.

Using virtual reality people will be placed in a situation they will face first-hand and with their phones, they will be able to recreate an interaction.

"You actually have a chance to maybe have those individuals make a change and concrete changes. Action items are really what we're going for, not just an experience that people can try and maybe laugh or cry about, or what have you, but we want to move people to change," said Dr. Carter.

The program will complement university courses that address anti-racism, but his team expects this developing program to reach more than just students.

“You can imagine the police department or law enforcement might be very interested in something like this, what's it like to be on the other end of a traumatic event between civilian and the law enforcement officer,” said Dr. Carter.

Dr. Carter expects to have a prototype done by May and start testing this summer.