Through My Eyes

Through my eyes is an augmented reality (AR) experience that brings people through a snippet of what it’s like to have Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). This was carried out as a research based intervention and promising results were found——the AR experience increased overall empathy towards persons with BDD.


Can AR increase empathy? With the desire to answer this question, I designed and explored the effects of an Augmented Reality (AR) experience in the context of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) for my undergraduate honors thesis. Within 4 months, the AR experience was built with SparkAR, user-tested with 30 participants and the research paper was also written. Participants used the demo on their phones and could see the AR effects on their own faces while going through an experience of what it potentially would be like for persons with BDD. The research was conducted with a one-way mirror where participants had privacy to go through the experience while the researcher (me) was making observations and taking down notes. I found very promising results - the AR experience did increase empathy for persons with BDD.
Detailed design & research process here

“Through my eyes” at a Mental Health Art Exhibition

Intrigued by the results and how the public would receive something like this at an exhibition, I adapted this experience for the Active Minds Mental Health Art Exhibition 2022, a 1-day exhibition featuring artwork themed around mental health.
People interacting with the piece at the Active Minds Mental Health Art Exhibition 2022


Drawing from the conclusions from the design decisions in my research, I made some changes for the exhibition.

Increasing realism in the content: I replaced some of the assets like the glasses with something more realistic, and made the blemishes blend more seamlessly with different faces.
Comparison of the changes I made to increase realism

I decided not to change the audio for an American audience even though the narration had a Singaporean accent. This was due to the time constraint of the exhibition and I would have to find a voice actor to re-do the narration. I could have done the narration myself but I felt like it would not have been the most effective as my natural accent is Singaporean and the emotional valence from the narration would not have been as impactful.

Version update: I re-did the experience in the latest Meta Spark platform and published the filter experience in the latest Instagram app version to ensure there were no accessibility challenges.

Poster: I made a poster for the exhibition to guide users to interact with the experience. It included a short description of what the experience was about, clear instructions and a note to update the Instagram app if things were not working as expected.

You can also follow the poster and try the experience out:
Through my eyes poster for Active Minds Mental Health Art Exhibition 2022


If I were to put this AR experience in an exhibition again, I would do a couple things differently.

For this particular exhibition, I had no information about the floor plan, what resources we had or didn’t have, and no information on the other artworks exhibiting as well. One of the users actually teared up during the experience and had to go to a darker corner of the exhibition space to finish the experience. Because it is such a private, intimate, challenging and triggering experience, a private space is a must. Hence, I would definitely make sure to section out a private quiet space for this experience in the future and make sure that the exhibition's tone matches with the piece. Additionally, trigger warnings needed to be accounted for before engaging with the experience. For my research, there were consent forms, introductions, and prior briefings before participants engaged in this experience. Similarly, for this to be at future exhibitions, it needs something similar as well.
Exhibition layout at Active Minds Mental Health Art Exhibition 2022

Having a QR code was a good way to allow people to bring home the experience and accommodating more people to experience it simultaneously. However, it is meant to be an individual experience in a private space. To provide for a more seamless user experience, I want to provide a phone or tablet, headphones and the experience already loaded on the device ready for the user. So, the user can simply walk into this private space, sit down and engage with the AR experience with the materials already provided for them. And if they would like to bring home the experience with them, they can scan the QR code. In other words, next time, the QR code would not be the main way of engagement. Unfortunately in this exhibition, no device resources were available and so I used my personal phone and headphones for people who wanted to try it at the exhibition. Some people used their own phones and headphones, but considering exhibition design where the artist won’t be present all the time, this would be the future route I take.

I would have a voice actor re-narrate the script for the American audience. It can also be expanded in different languages.

I am thinking of using AI to detect people’s existing hair color and generating a fringe that matches their hair to make the experience more realistic, especially for people who don’t have black hair (as the current fringe is defaulted to black). As found in my research, the greater the realism, the greater the empathy. Hence, this would be an impactful change.


I have learnt so much from both my research and adapting this AR experience for an art exhibition. In addition to future iterations of this project, I hope to continue exploring the effects of AR and how it can help increase empathy around other stigmatized issues.