“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—just a little…I felt everyone else, all over the world, all 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 fragmented and isolated world. Inspired by the story, the Empathy Box and Empathy Amulet are two networked devices that connect many anonymous people through shared warmth. 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 choice to invest their time and energy in connection with strangers, and they incorporate 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 either consciously or unconsciously.
- Sophia Brueckner, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA