Are Empathy-Building Products Making a Dent?

By “empathy-building products” I mean the products that raise awareness about people’s difficulties and put users in other users’ shoes. So on one side we have the people who need help and on the other – the folks who are willing to help them, and by doing so, their empathy levels go up.

Beautiful concept, no? But is beautiful enough to make a dent?



The first time I heard of “empathy-building products” was when Biz Stone launched the overpraised Jelly app with the unexpected primary goal of increasing empathy. That was January 2014.

On TechCrunch, Biz states:

Let’s make the world a more empathetic place by teaching that there’s other people around them that need help.

That is beautiful. A year later – March 2015 – this happens:


This time Biz is not so idealistic. His new app – Super – is “just for fun”.

Has Biz learned from his mistake? Maybe… He does seem a little bit glib in the second photo compared to the first one. But I don’t think the lesson here is “make fun apps, not idealistic ones”. That’s not the lesson at all.

Rather, Biz’s mistake lay in his interpretation of the app.

When you first heard about Jelly, was it clear it would raise empathy? Did you think about empathy at all? I didn’t think so. There was a discrepancy between Biz’s idea and what we actually saw. Not to mention it was too broad to be truly helpful. (To be honest, I don’t get “Super” either.)

And so don’t think for a minute empathy-building products are not as impactful as the fun apps. Because they can be.



The second time I thought about the concept was when BeMyEyes trended on Product Hunt. It’s a beautiful concept, which proves that people do take notice of empathy-building products, especially if they’re radically different than anything else.

Be My Eyes is an app that connects blind people with volunteer helpers from around the world via live video chat.

Download now and start helping blind people see.

Was Jelly radical? Nope. If anything, it reminded me of Quora.

BeMyEyes, however, is targeted to blind people, and it really helps their day-to-day activities. As a bonus, it raises the empathy levels of the volunteers who help them, which is the true gift of giving.

What BeMyEyes does right is – it’s clear, it solves a real problem, and it makes a difference immediately after it’s used. For both sides. One could say that it made a bit of a dent, not to mention leaving a lasting impression.


Other than BeMyEyes, there haven’t been many empathy-building products lately. And I’m not talking about charitable programs where you give to charity and then forget about it. I’m not talking about “teleportation apps” either, which are trending right now, but are mainly just fun.

I’m talking about real things that open your eyes about a certain issue.

Off the top of my head, I can think of two such products:

They didn’t really make it big time like BeMyEyes, but they did leave a strong impression, and that’s something that could still help people long-term because the spirit of giving, listening, and understanding lives and carries on from idea to idea, product to product, and person to person.

Keeping the spirit alive can make a big dent someday. 😉

To answer the question I posed in the title: “Are empathy-building products making a dent?” Maybe not yet, but we’re making progress.


What do you think of empathy-building products? Are there any I haven’t listed? 

6 thoughts on “Are Empathy-Building Products Making a Dent?

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