Dr. Yi (Joy) Li’s current research focuses on affective gaming in healthcare, virtual reality, and human-computer interaction. She is the lab director of the Realities Lab. She has extensive experience in gamification in education and has collaborated with a number of local K-12 schools and universities on educational game design.

On-going research projects/educational projects

Adaptive VR for Attention Deficits on Autism Spectrum - awarded by NSF CRII grant

The goal of this research is to develop and evaluate an adaptive virtual reality (VR) system that will enable an innovative therapy for children with attention-deficit on the autism spectrum. The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the United State has grown significantly in recent years, and while there have been some successful efforts to address this issue by exploiting VR-based therapies, most of them merely use VR as an alternative way to simulate existing approaches. An important feature of VR technology – the ability to generate “impossible experiences” (i.e., experiences that cannot be created in the real world, such as a chair disappearing upon the user’s gaze) – seems to be missing in these systems, because this feature was not available when most traditional ASD therapies were developed. The envisaged system will employ specifically designed “impossible experiences” to deliver an individualized therapy that addresses the attention deficits of children with ASD. The research will improve the learning ability of children with ASD and provide novel design guidelines for future VR systems used in ASD therapy.


Cybersecurity Awareness Training – awarded by NSA Gencyber Grant

This is a collaborative project between Dr. Joy Li and Dr. Yan. This project aims to broaden security awareness via cybersecurity education among middle school students. The project takes an approach that integrates student learning into game playing. This is to attract kids from a younger age with little/no cybersecurity knowledge. We seek to increase their interest in cybersecurity careers and build a diverse workforce and also address the ethics of appropriate online etiquette amongst the participating middle school students.


Empathy Game for Parkinson’s Disease – collaborating with Augusta University

This is an on-going project in collaboration with Augusta University Medical School. WSB-TV has covered this project in its news channel in February 2020. KSU Visual Insight also covered this project.

Introducing empathy for patients with uncommon diseases in medical students has always been a challenge in medical education.  Nowadays, with the rapid evolution of technologies, it is possible to use cutting-edge gaming devices as tools to improve teaching efficacy and enhance student’s understanding of a specific disease.  The purpose of this project is to utilize the presence and immersion of virtual reality (VR) to simulate Parkinson’s disease (PD).  By engaging students in the simulated daily life of patients with PD, we aim to help medical students to have hands-on experience of the disease and thus to facilitate their understanding of the symptoms and the empathy of patients. Data collection functions are under development into the VR scene to allow educators to use this more effectively in a learning environment. The program has been integrated into the Augusta University Medical School curriculum in practice and collecting data for further improvement.


Depression Prevention by Mutual Empathy Training

Making use of the presence and immersion experience of VR devices and motion feedback to establish cognitive empathy for depressive disorders. This study aims to raise mutual understanding and trains appropriate empathy level. The approach not only assists depression intervention for patients in an indirect way, but also leads to the prevention of possible depression onset in people with risk by letting them know the symptoms and also the relapse of recovered patients by promoting more social supports, as well as training their own empathy level.


Depression Detection

Some part of this VR design is based on the similar theory as ASD, that the emotional reaction to the same stimuli from patients with depression will be different than other people.

The game features simulating 3 consecutive days to school to elicit 3 different emotional responses. These responses would then be put to the test by a series of mini-games and evaluated according to their scores. The game includes a total of three emotional states–neutral, negative, and positive–between two dynamically changing settings. The game features a means of self-reporting of the player’s mood that can be performed at any time for the purpose of gathering insight on the efficacy of individual interactions and additionally repurposes the two mini-games from the prototype to match the game’s new setting.



[1]  E. M. Sokhadze, F. Manuel, D. L. K. Casanova, G. E. Sokhadze, Y. Li, A. S. Elmaghraby, and A. S. El-Baz, “Virtual reality with psychophysiological monitoring as an approach to,” in Autism Imaging and Devices, 2017, publisher: CRC Press.

[2]  J. Zhang, M. Mullikin, Y. Li, and C. Mei, “A Methodology of Eye Gazing Attention Determination for VR Training,” in 2020 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces Abstracts and Workshops (VRW), Mar. 2020, pp. 138–141.

[3]  C. Baxter, E. M. Sokhadze, and Y. Li, “Affective Virtual Reality Game for Depression Symptoms Detection Using Psychophysiological and Behavioral Measures,” in Proceedings of the 2020 ISNR Annual Conference, vol. 7, Dec. 2020, pp. 173–174. [Online]. Available:

[4]  C. Zhang, H. Luo, and Y. Li, “Depression Detection Using Virtual Reality: A Literature Review,” in Proceedings of the 54th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Jan. 2021, pp. 4001–4008.[Online]. Available: https://

[5]  Y. Li, H. I. Luo, and C. Zhang, “Empathy Games for Depression Using Virtual Reality: A Literature Review and A Study Design,” in Proceedings of the 54th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Jan. 2021, pp. 4009–4018. [Online]. Available:

[6]  Y. Li, C. Ducleroir, T. Stollman, and E. Wood, “Parkinson’s Disease Simulation in Virtual Reality for Empathy Training in Medical Education,” in 2021 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces Abstracts and Workshops (VRW). Atlanta, GA, USA: IEEE, Mar. 2021, pp. 56–59.

[7]  Y. Li and H. I. Luo, “Depression Prevention by Mutual Empathy Training: Using Virtual Reality as a Tool,” in 2021 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces Abstracts and Workshops (VRW). Atlanta, GA, USA: IEEE, Mar. 2021, pp. 60–63.

[8]  Y. Li, C. Zhang, and H. I. Luo, “Using mixed reality in K-12 education: A Literature review,” in AMCIS 2021 Proceedings. 22. Montreal: AMCIS, Aug. 2021, p. 1728.