February 20, 2020

The Empathy Machine

“Barry exists to be fired.

Over and over again, Barry pops into simulated existence with one purpose: Teach management trainees the best way to let employees go.

Barry is built to respond to your cues as you explain the situation that had led to his termination: Due to recent outbursts toward co-workers, Barry is no longer welcome at your company. The choice of available prewritten script options help you navigate this conversation, but not without danger. Speak too softly and Barry will seize on your weakness and create an outburst; respond aggressively and Barry will break down crying.

Barry is a “Virtual Human” offered by Talespin, a company that provides workforce training through virtual reality simulation. The company received increased exposure after a recent MIT Technology Review article about Barry made the rounds on the internet. It’s part of a growing trend of virtual reality being used as a training tool for companies like Walmart and the NFL, as well as police departments looking for ways to help prepare officers for high-stress situations like domestic violence calls and active shooter events.”

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