Activate Studios Scholarship winner explores empathy through augmented reality

Pamela Saleme Ruiz Activate Studios

Pamela Saleme Ruiz was intrigued by the prospect of working within Griffith University’s Social Marketing area, so when a scholarship sponsored by Activate Studios Scholarship popped up offering just that, she applied right away.

The scholarship opportunity gave one lucky Honours student the ability to have hands-on involvement with an augmented reality project focused on teaching children empathy, in conjunction with Social Marketing @ Griffith.

When Pamela was announced as the winner, she was thrilled. “I thought it was an innovative and very challenging research opportunity that I wanted to be involved in,” Pamela says. “I was very honoured to receive the scholarship.”

Throughout the project, Pamela learnt all about gamification and augmented reality through Griffith and Activate’s app REMI, or Robot Empathy Machine Intelligence. Aimed at developing empathy awareness within children, the study took the form of an interactive comic book and augmented reality game. Through the story, kids would be faced with certain moral decisions, which would then shape the social and physical development of the REMI character. In this way, participating children develop a greater understanding of the effects of empathy on both REMI and others, and thus increase their capacity for the essential cognitive skill.

The main goal of Activate Studios in offering this particular scholarship in association with Griffith’s Social Marketing hub was to show students how gamification could be used to enact social change.

Founder Tyronne Curtis says he was keen on providing direct industry contact to one lucky student, in this case Pamela.

Activate Studios REMI program Griffith Social Marketing
Kids using the REMI augmented reality app.

“We wanted to provide a unique opportunity to a student who was interested in the REMI project,” he explains. “This meant that they would be able to gain deeper insight into understanding the subject area of empathy and we would gain a better understanding of the scientific process behind our technology”.

“It’s also a great opportunity to connect directly with industry,” he says.

One of Pamela’s key responsibilities while working on the REMI project was to develop a pre and post survey surrounding the augmented reality empathy app. She was tasked with building, testing and assisting with the rollout of the survey in schools.

She says the industry experience she’s gained from the work has been invaluable. “Being able to work with a company in the technology and media industry that’s as reputable as Activate gave me valuable experience and really broadened my knowledge,” Pamela says.

Tyronne only has positive things to say about the Master of Marketing student’s work. “Pamela was passionate about our project and had incredible attention to detail,” he says. “She always looked for unique ways to solve problems and was very committed and hard working.”

Meanwhile Pamela says being involved with an empathy project has really inspired her to alter her thinking and career goals. “This experience has shifted my career interests towards a more social perspective of marketing, and how it can be applied to change people and society for the better.”