News / Toronto

The Empathy Toy: Toronto company's game building bridges around the world

Universities, businesses and professional offices now calling to get hold of the Empathy Toy

The Empathy Toy is being used in universities, businesses and offices to increase people’s empathy towards their colleagues.

Courtesy of Twenty One Toys

The Empathy Toy is being used in universities, businesses and offices to increase people’s empathy towards their colleagues.

A toy being made in Toronto is spreading across the globe — teaching people to be empathetic one fun moment at a time.

It’s the work of Twenty One Toys, which originally designed the puzzle game as a way to bridge the gap between between visually impaired people and their sighted counterparts.

Now, three years after the aptly named Empathy hit the market, its spread far outside its original audience reaching more than 1,000 schools in more than 40 countries.

“It’s an abstract puzzle,” said company founder Ilana Ben-Ari, explaining that one person uses the toy to create a pattern, then describes it to others so they can replicate the same pattern. Fully sighted people playing the game have to be blindfolded.

“How the game is played essentially reveals how the person deals with frustration and how they creatively communicate with others,” she said. “It really is an intensive experience where people learn about themselves.”

Ben-Ari was surprised at the speed with which the game gained attention. Businesses, banks, universities and professional offices started calling not too long after the release, and the momentum has continued.

So much so that the company now trains people on using the puzzle to build bridges — no matter their surroundings. Soon, a team from Twenty One is headed to Hong Kong where dozens of MBA students will be trained to apply empathy in the business environment.

If nothing else, it might just prove one important point: “Today’s world is complex, and we need to work together regardless of our differences,” Ben-Ari said.

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