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Collaboration, Soft Skills, Therapy and Support

Virtual Embodiment In VR Raises Questions

In its simplest form, Virtual embodiment is the perception of sensory feedback related to a person’s virtual, non-physical body, also known as an avatar, and the effect it has on the particular person behind the avatar. Virtual embodiment comes as an offshoot of the study of embodiment cognition, which is the idea that the mind and body are in unison, with the two working in harmony. Embodiment cognition research shows how the aspects of a person’s body seem to generate built-in tendencies in how that person views the world around them. Those aspects include motor functions, height, number of limbs, handedness, and the body’s interactions with the environment.

Given we cannot control many factors like our height or handedness, the most common way we seek to control our identity in the physical world is through clothing, accessories, make-up, tattoos, piercing, hair styles, hair coloring and now, masks. We display these attributes to show our personal style and to provide non-verbal clues about our personalities.  If we want to be seen as diplomatic and professional, chances are we wear business attire and keep ourselves well groomed. If we want to be viewed as someone who is bold and anti-establishment, we may choose ripped clothing and cyan colored hair. We rely on these outward signals, whether consciously or not, to frame interactions with other people before any words are spoken.

As our bodies and minds become more integrated with virtual mediums, the same avenues of expression we have in the physical world are finding their way into the digital world. From the more basic Bitmojis on Snapchat to full-fledged 3-D avatars in a Virtual Reality simulation, we continue to seek ways to express and represent ourselves in order to provide non-verbal clues as to who we are underneath.  The difference with virtual embodiment, however, is that the only limitations to creating an outward identity is the level of customization afforded by a particular platform. Skin color, gender, height, facial features, number of limbs – all potentially alterable within minutes. Staying within our own species is not even a requirement in some cases.

No where is virtual embodiment taking on more meaning than in Virtual Reality (VR) where interactions between avatars are convincingly lifelike and the range of customization options is broader than any other digital medium. Take entertainment-based social environments like Rec Room, AltSpace or Facebook’s Horizon. Many people in these worlds engage and interact purely through virtual identities without ever knowing what someone looks like in real life.

While this level of anonymity and freedom of identity is fine in that context, those same attributes do not necessarily lend themselves to a business or professional environment. With VR being used more and more for corporate collaboration, mental and physical healthcare, and training and education, the role of the avatar brings up more nuanced questions around virtual embodiment that need to be thought through. 

For example, in the case of a pitch meeting held in VR, is there a responsibility for both parties to represent themselves as close to who they are in the real world as possible? Since pitching is partially about the person or people behind the product or service, an argument can be made that they should not appear younger, a different ethnicity, or a different gender than they are in real life. Or maybe that actually shouldn’t matter at all and non-realistic should be encouraged in order to weed out implicit bias in the process.

Therapy sessions also produce an interesting use case. It may be that the therapist should adhere closely to his or her real world identity whereas the patient may benefit from a virtual embodiment that they feel expresses themselves better. The very act of customizing one’s virtual appearance to better represent how one would like to be seen can be a part of the therapeutic process itself. Or maybe there is a benefit in the therapist playing a particular role or roles throughout the therapeutic process in order to elicit responses from the patient.

Foretell Reality recognizes the importance of virtual embodiment, particularly in professional settings. Through our work with partners like Yale School of Medicine, Fordham University, and XRHealth, we see firsthand the importance and promise of virtual embodiment in VR to redefine digital identity as a whole.  Toward that end, we recently expanded our avatar selection tool to include many more customization options.

Lifestyle, Soft Skills

Dating in VR

Due to stay at home orders and rules of social distancing, it is becoming harder to go on spontaneous first-dates at restaurants, bars, or just out in public. Just in time to solve this issue, Virtual Reality (VR) offers a technological alternative to dating apps that actually allows people to “go” on dates by interacting in shared settings through lifelike avatars.

Additionally, the anonymity provided by an avatar allows the ability to be more open and exploratory during an initial date or dates prior to revealing ones actual identity. And activities like playing games together in VR can break the ice and create a stronger connection.

And once a relationship matures in VR, some people may even choose to tie the knot. For example, a couple recently  married in VR surrounded by remote guests all wearing appropriate wedding attire and surrounded by a beautiful virtual world. 

VR further proves its versatility and value in not only serving as a medium for which people can go on dates and even get married, but as a technology that offers programs that help people become more socially competent and comfortable when it comes to dating.

Through avatars and realistic scenarios, VR has the potential to offer people the ability to engage in  date coaching to prepare for actual physical encounters once the pandemic subsides.Whereas people may be afraid to reach out and take action to become more social because of the lack of confidence, embodying a virtual body, whether anonymously or not, can allow people to build up their dating skills without the typical fears and self-consciousness that may be associated with this kind of self-improvement. 

VR has the ability to impact behavioral health not just in the dating realm, but in terms of one’s overall mental health. Yes you can help change behavior by helping someone overcome the nerves of asking someone on a first date, but behavioral health offers more generalized anxiety treatments as well. For example, VR therapy in VR is being used to treat anxiety disorders and is becoming especially relevant during the pandemic to help with feelings of isolation. A recent article in Frontiers in Psychiatry states that “VR exposure therapy (VRET) permits individualized, gradual, controlled, immersive exposure that is easy for therapists to implement and often more acceptable to patients…” From teaching and making people more comfortable with dating and socialization skills to helping patients mental health issues, VR is developing programs that directly deal with the issues challenging social and anxiety issues.


Foretell Reality works with a variety of individuals, institutions and organizations to develop specialized VR programs for a variety of behavioral health applications. We are always exploring new use cases and ways in which this powerful medium can help humans better communicate both remotely and when together in the same space.

Therapy and Support

Fighting Isolation with VR

When isolating inside for the collective wellbeing of humanity, it’s easy to feel down without the stimulation of being able to constantly interact with others. Virtual Reality (VR) simulations present a unique opportunity in helping people connect. Video interviews and work conferences through VR are becoming increasingly popular and allow you to feel more immersed in your work environment. Being able to see your colleagues and interact, even if only virtually, creates a greater sense of community that can’t be communicated over the phone or even through Zoom calls.


VR technology is also incredibly powerful in its ability to create an interactive classroom setting. With a VR headset, there are no incoming distractions from the outside world. Students can continue to learn distraction-free without worry of exposing themselves to COVID-19. Additionally, sites such as opencolleges.edu show that VR improves student’s motivation so that they feel more inclined to make the most of their learning experiences.


It’s also important to acknowledge how VR is shifting the realm of psychology and what this means for psychologists to interact with their patients. Psychologists are working with VR to develop experiments in which they can create studies that allow them to have control over a variety of social scenarios. They can create virtual avatars that all look the same to control all the variables. They can then test them against each other and find out how to better reach and communicate with certain people.
A recent study focused specifically around this premise. In the study they concluded the utility of VR for psychology by acknowledging the context of VR in the psychological realm, exploring the hardware itself, and analyzing various projects and systems that are combining psychology and VR/AI. A cool example included a socially aware robot assistant (SARA) created by the ArticuLab at Carnegie Mellon University that is able to “recognize both non-verbal (visual and vocal) and verbal signals and utilizes AI to form her answer”.

VR can also be used to connect with a therapist or with a therapy group during this time. These sessions can often be even more convenient and effective than an-in person sessions, and are particularly useful in this time of isolation.


VR is not only expanding technology, but the field of psychology. It demonstrates how we are adapting to these isolating times and creating new and effective ways to interact with others. Talking to friends and teachers is easier than ever before thanks to VR, and technology is continuing to evolve, leading to endless possibilities. Companies such as Foretell Reality see the opportunities this pandemic gives to create new ways of interacting that can benefit everyone in more convenient ways than ever before.

Soft Skills, Tech

5 Misconceptions of VR

1. VR Headsets are Uncomfortable

One common misconception is that the VR headset itself is uncomfortable to wear. Didjet.com writes about how, for many users, these headsets are quite comfortable to wear and are constantly being modified for better fit. They are also super easy to adjust exactly to your face! The newest headset from Oculus for example weighs under 18 ounces and has an optional head strap for a more comfortable fit.

2. VR Discourages Physical Activity

Didjet.com also writes how some think that immersive tech like VR discourages people from physical activity. A lot of the time, VR actually helps people get active and there are even games to do this as well. With a portable VR headset, you can even walk around instead of simply sitting in front of a laptop. Examples of VR fitness games including classics like Beat Saber as well as multiple boxing titles.

3. VR is Only for Gamers

Stambol.com and Didjet.com highlight the misconception that VR is really only for gamers. For example, Foretell Reality demonstrates VR’s use for therapy and support, soft skills development, and business collaboration. Other Glimpse Group subsidiaries utilize VR as well. Pagoni VR uses VR technology to combine physical and virtual worlds and create video workflows, D6 VR uses virtual tools to take data analysis, data visualization, remote work, and collaboration to a whole new level, and the list goes on!

4. VR is Isolating

Another looming misconception that VR isolates you from other people. If anything, VR puts you in connection with even more people than you previously had access to. During a pandemic this is incredibly relevant and in the workplace it can be used to virtually interact with people without any chance of exposure. For example, Facebook, maker of the most popular VR headset available, is currently in Beta with Horizon which it describes as a “social experience where you can explore, play, and create in extraordinary ways.”

5. VR Will Make you Nauseous

With most new headsets offering 6 versus 3 degrees of freedom as well as evolving design practices, it is much less common for this to occur. VR games and applications are used by a wide range of audiences from as young as 12 years old to seniors, 100’s of whom have been using therapeutic applications without who reporting any feelings of nausea.

Foretell Reality is an enterprise VR solution for interpersonal communication and business collaboration. Learn more here.

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