You personal empathy trainer.

Just like eating bread when wine tasting, or ginger after eating a piece sushi to help you clean your palate, Gari is a device that helps you refresh your mental state. Gari is a small device that helps you exercise and boost your empathy through small active listening exercises, where you spend a couple of minutes listening to Gari’s needs and then through simple interactions try to fulfill them, thus letting you focus on somebody else’s needs in order to train your empathy.

The first question was, ‘is it possible to measure or quantify empathy?’. After some research, I discovered a test (created by Simon Baron-Cohen at ARC at the University of Cambridge) consisting of 60 questions designed to scientifically calculate how empathic you are. I started by handing out a paper version of the test to gather some data, and in order to get more people to take the test, I made an online version. You can try it out for yourself here.

After collecting a lot of scientific data about empathy, I decided to speak with some people that work in a field where empathy is big part of their job. So, I spoke to Julia, Torben and Jonathan. Julia is a 31 year old Psychiatric Social Worker from the US. Torben is a 50 year old lawyer from Denmark and Jonathan is a 28 year old Prison guard from Denmark.

In my interviews I wanted to understand their relationship to empathy and how they handle empathy in their everyday. I learned, especially from Julia & Jonathan that the working environment is really important and that it’s alright to go for a walk if you need to.

One thing that Julia said, that really stuck with me was “Sometimes when I leave my office, and I need to be really empathetic, I’ll grab the door handle and spend a couple of minutes trying to empathise with the door handle. Trying to understand how the door handle is feeling. It gives me and mental boost when I’m done.


Inspired by what Julia said about the door handle, I wanted to create a object that would help people exercise and boost their empathy through very simple interactions.

These are the first four prototypes I built and tested.

ButtonBox – The first prototype has a pushbutton and a LED. It wants you to push the button a certain number of times and will flash red when you’ve done it wrong and green when you guessed correctly. It’s then up to you to figure out from the red flashes how many times you need to press the button.

NoiseBox – the second prototype used a light sensor and a small speaker. Here you start with the box in your hands and slowly let it out, if you do it too quickly it will start screaming.

SlideBox – the third prototype used a slide potentiometer and a vibrating motor. It will vibrate for a certain time, and a certain “level” – you then have to position the slide potentiometer at the right spot for the right amount of time, to make it happy.

ServoBox – The final prototype is a hacked servo, it wants you to turn the top of the box to a certain position and it will fight you a little bit until you find the right spot.

I took my four prototypes out and tested them. This is what I learnt from my first prototypes.

  • Keep the light sensor.

  • Keep the audio feddback, but change it.

  • Keep the vibration feddback, but change it.

  • Change the shape.

Based on my learnings I made a new prototype. I took this to Kari. Kari is 48 years old and in charge of development and training of store staff and leaders at Synoptik. She used the prototype for almost two weeks. After a couple of days she said that it helped her calm down and focus, sometimes. It improved her ability to listen and she felt that it made her more special.

For the final project I was focusing on people that work in an environment where they switch from one mental state to another multiple times a day, and want to have some help making that switch. Overall, I could see that everybody wants to be more aware of how empathic they are and would like help in becoming more so.