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Soft Skills, VR-Related

Addressing Barriers to Role Play through Virtual Reality

What is role play?

Role play is a commonly used training technique in which participants simulate real world scenarios in order to improve soft skills such as negotiation, problem solving, teamwork, conflict resolution, and active listening.

How does it work?

By practicing scenarios over and over again in a safe environment with peers and under the guidance of professional coaches or educators, participants become better prepared to deal with the same situations when they occur in the real world.

What professions can benefit from role play?

Any profession that includes interactions with clients, colleagues, customers, or those receiving care can benefit from role play. Some examples include:

Career Development: Many companies still require in-person interviews which means sitting across the table from as many as half a dozen different interviewees over a period of hours. Honing interviewing skills by practicing with peers improves confidence and self pitching.

Corporate Consulting: Presenting and active listening are two skills essential in effective consulting engagements. Gaining feedback from colleagues playing the role of clients can identify areas that need improvement before stepping foot inside a customer’s offices.

Professional Coaching: Professional coaches work with clients to help them achieve certain goals in their business and personal lives. Practicing interpersonal skills through role play in safe guided environments is a teaching method commonly used by coaches as they work with their clients to confront real world challenges.

Sales: Sales is all about relationships and connections. Gaining the trust of potential clients requires strong communication skills, active listening, emotional intelligence and ultimately negotiation skills. Role play is a powerful tool to practice those skills before getting in front of both new and existing customers.

Social Work: Social workers are placed in uncertain situations all the time. Conflict resolution, problem solving, and strong communication skills can mean the difference between escalation and resolution.

Customer Service: With retailers struggling to get customers to physically shop in their stores, every touch point with an employee is critical in keeping them coming back. Role playing various scenarios from complaints to unusual requests to product questions will improve the customer experience by providing employees to skills they need to resolve most issues.

Law Enforcement – Though physical confrontation with assailants is often portrayed in movies and in the news as central to an officers duties, soft skills such as conflict resolution, active listening, negotiation, and empathy are far more important to de-escalation and better community relations than handcuffs or batons. Experiencing different points of view through role play (e.g. the assailant’s) is one way of arming officers with the soft skills they need to resolve real world conflicts.

What are the barriers to role play?

Given that role play is an effective training tool, what deters broader use of the training technique? For the most part, the issues can be boiled down to three things:

  1. It is logistically difficult and expensive to get everyone together in the same location.
  2. People do not feel comfortable pretending to act or look like someone else.
  3. It is challenging to imagine that an environment looks different than the one you are in.

How can Virtual Reality (VR) address these barriers?

Virtual reality is a technology that is uniquely suited to address each of the barriers above.

  1. Role play participants can attend sessions in a shared 3D environment wherever they may be in the world. No need for a physical space or to travel to a specific location.
  2. Avatars allow role players to embody different personas without needing to pretend or imagine. This allows for more open dialogue and less self-consciousness during sessions.
  3. Realistically rendered environments can replicate anything from a board room to a living room. All participants see the same space and can even interact with 3D objects within it.

According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 89 percent of recruiters say when a hire doesn’t work out, it usually comes down to a lack of soft skills. And a Deloitte study from a few years back reported that “soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030.”

As we move to a world where emotional intelligence is an essential job requirement, VR offers a technology that can bring one of the most effective soft skills training techniques, role play, directly to anyone with a $300 headset.

Foretell Reality is a social (VR) platform for soft skills training, therapy and support, and real time collaboration.

October Events in VR
Industry News, Other

Five Events in October Pushing VR Forward (and the month’s not over yet)

  1. Accenture announces it will purchase 60,000 VR headsets to train new hires.

Why it Matters: More demand for hardware will create more competition among headset manufacturers which will advance innovation.

2. HTC announces release of new immersive glasses for relaxation.

Why it Matters: More affordably priced headsets in the marketplace targeted at specific consumer applications like relaxation will increase adoption among consumers.

3. Facebook announces it will hire 10,000 new employees in Europe focused on building out metaverse.

Why it Matters: With 10,000 employees in the U.S. already working on AR and VR, this is a clear indication that the largest social media company in the world is going all in on a 3D future globally.

4. Magic Leap raises another $500m and reveals Magic Leap 2.

Why it Matters: Having now raised a total of $3.5b, it shows that large investors see augmented and virtual reality as a long term play.

5. Paris Hilton headlines the inaugural Metaverse Festival and embraces the decentralized world of blockchain, Decentraland, and Genies.

Why it Matters: Alternative social VR platforms show that Mark Zuckerburg’s metaverse isn’t the only game in town meaning more choices for consumers, more innovation, and less centralized control.

VR for Soft Skills Training
Coaching, Soft Skills

Five Myths of AR and VR Training

A recent article highlighted five myths associated with AR and VR training. Among them – it’s a fad, it doesn’t actually improve learning, and it’s only useful for practicing physical skills.

For the latter, the author elaborates on the importance of soft skill training. “VR simulations provide a low-pressure way to practice high stakes conversations and foster an emotional connection for learners. For example, difficult conversations across leadership, HR, sales, customer service and more can be practiced with the aid of avatars.”

Foretell Reality allows for virtual embodiment through customizable avatars that can engage in role play scenarios from any perspective. Observers can view scenarios as a non-participant in VR or from a desktop. Interested in a demo? Click here.

Group Mindfulness in VR
Mindfulness, Therapy and Support

The Benefits of Group Mindfulness in VR

Meditation’s popularity has grown more than three fold in the past decade and the pandemic has shed even more light on the practice as people struggle with depression, anxiety, and isolation. Though often done alone, a recent article from PositivePsychology.com highlights several benefits of practicing mindfulness as a group. These include:

Motivation – “Organized group meditation provides an opportunity for those who might not practice alone to show up.”

Relatedness – “Having others present during a mindfulness session can boost our resolve and provide a sense of ‘we are in this together,’ especially when we are prone to distraction. “

Competence – “If the leader makes time for the group to discuss the challenges they face, each session can provide a valuable opportunity to share solutions.”

Autonomy – “While it may sound counterintuitive, mindfulness as a group may have fewer distractions and offer a more profound experience.”

But what about when you are not able to join other people in a group, particularly during a pandemic? Group mindfulness in Virtual Reality (VR) offers its own set of benefits over both in person and video sessions. These include:

Accessibility – VR allows individuals who may not want or may be unable to travel to participate in group sessions from anywhere in the world. This includes patients confined to hospital beds, people suffering from social anxiety, or those living in rural areas.

Anonymity – The virtual embodiment provided by avatars also provides anonymity for those who may not wish to reveal their identity or be on camera, particularly during discussion sessions.

Calming Environments – The sights and sounds within in VR can foster mindfulness and focus attention in ways that a meditator does not have to close his or her eyes and imagine.

Individualized Experiences – Even when participating in mindfulness exercises as a group, individuals can choose their own environment while still seeing others in the space. Additionally, biofeedback can provide individual indicators of stress level and other measures.

The Foretell Reality platform enables social VR experiences for mindfulness, social skills, and overall mental health including group therapy and support and addiction recovery. Click here to request a demo.

 

VR Soft Skills
Soft Skills

MIT Study: Virtual Embodiment in VR Soft Skills Training Increases Officer Empathy Toward Victim of Racial Abuse

A recent MIT study enlisted 38 police officers to take part in an VR scenario in which they are alongside another officer who is racially abusive towards an African American suspect. Officers were then divided into two different groups in order to witness the same interrogation again.

One group witnessed the interaction as an observer while the other embodied the perspective of the suspect. Three weeks later, all officers were again placed in a hostile interrogation of an African American suspect in a different setting.

“The results show that the actions of those who had been in the Victim condition were coded as being more helpful towards the victim than those in the Observer condition.”

Virtual embodiment is a real and powerful phenomenon in VR that can be used to increase empathy, inspire openness, change perspectives, and boost confidence (see previous blog post about the new avatar-based singing competition on Fox).

Foretell Reality allows for virtual embodiment through customizable avatars that can engage in role play scenarios from any perspective. Observers can view scenarios as a non-participant in VR or from a desktop. Interested in a demo? Click here.

vr soft skills
Soft Skills, Therapy and Support

‘Alter Ego’ on Fox Highlights the Power of the Avatar

A new singing competition on Fox puts a twist on the ‘masked singer’ genre by using holographic avatars to hide the identities of the performers. The name of the show, ‘Alter Ego,’ is a cultural first in that it directly addresses issues of identity and highlights some of the reasons why a performer (and, by extension, anyone else) might want to embody an alternate being for a period of time.

In the trailer leading up to the first episode, there was a common theme among the performers. They weren’t hiding behind these avatars. Instead, they felt the avatars empowered them to excel and to not be judged by anything other than their abilities as a performer.

“How I look has held me back,” says a female vocalist in the trailer. “People always judge me by the way I look,” says another. A third explains, “having an alter ego helps me a lot in life.”

The avatars in ‘Alter Ego’ are fantastical. They have powers like the ability to levitate, transform out of glitter cloud, and direct a stream of emoticons at the judges. They are different colors, shapes, and genders. But the voices behind them are real and those voices may never have been heard without an avatar in front to give them the confidence to move forward.

‘Alter Ego’ is a high profile Hollywood example of how virtual embodiment can empower people to overcome their fears, but many other everyday use cases offer broader and more varied applications. In therapeutic settings, Avatars provide anonymity to those who may not otherwise seek out treatment. In group settings, avatars generate more open conversation, leveling the playing field in a world often structured around physical appearance. Role play with avatars offers opportunities to counter implicit bias or build soft skills like public speaking or negotiation. For those with physical ailments or confined to a hospital bed, avatars offer a chance to be free from the constraints of the real world for a period of time.

Rather than seeing avatars as an escape, ‘Alter Ego’ celebrates the power they bring to those behind them. In social virtual reality settings, avatars can also empower, teach, train, and transform in ways that are just now being more deeply explored.

Foretell Reality is a social virtual reality platform with customizable avatars for a variety of professional use cases including therapy and support and soft skills development. Interested in a demo? Click here.

VR for addiction
Therapy and Support

Behavioral Health Business Highlights North Star Care and Foretell Reality VR Partnership

Among other topics, North Star Care CEO Amanda Wilson discusses the benefits that the anonymity in VR brings to AUD treatment in this recent article by in Behavioral Health Business.

“We thought that group treatment in a virtual space, where the person is represented as an avatar, would give people the freedom to both participate in the first place, if they were reticent, but also the ability to really speak freely … and feel very comfortable communicating in this space.”

Read More

vr soft skills
Soft Skills, Therapy and Support

Recent Study: 3D VR Environments Generate More Emotional Stimulation Than 2D

A recent study that compared emotional arousal in 2D and 3D VR environments “indicated that emotional stimulation was more intense in the 3D environment due to the improved perception of the environment; greater emotional arousal was generated; and higher beta (21–30 Hz) EEG power was identified in 3D than in 2D.”

Read More about this study here. Other VR research studies can be found here.

5 Benefits of VR for Clients and Coaches
Coaching, Soft Skills

Professional Coaching in VR: 5 Benefits for Clients and Coaches

Professional coaches are increasingly in demand and the field has been growing significantly over the past decade. Coaches offer personalized support, advice, and guidance, helping clients navigate a variety of life’s challenges from careers to dating to mental health and physical wellness.

A recent article in Behavioral Business News highlighted one example of where professional coaches can step in to supplement an overburdened healthcare system.

“Coaches are helping guide [people] in behavioral skills … to recover [from eating disorders],” Carolyn Costin — a Malibu, California-based psychotherapist and longtime eating disorder expert — told Behavioral Health Business. “Nobody up until now has really been filling that gap. You can have a lot of plans from your therapist and dieticians. But there’s only so much that they can do.”

With access to all types of care, support, and guidance moving from in-person to Zoom, the shortcomings of video sessions are becoming apparent. VR offers several benefits to both clients and coaches over video sessions and headsets are more affordable and powerful than ever.

5 Benefits of VR for Clients and Coaches

  1. Anonymity Lowers Barriers and Increases Accessibility

VR allows clients to remain anonymous both in appearance and voice (through voice masking) while still interacting with coaches and/or other clients in realistic 3D social environments. This anonymity offers a safe onramp for clients to reveal more about themselves and their struggles without the fear of judgement or recognition. For coaches, anonymity offers an opportunity to expand access to those who may not be comfortable initially identifying themselves for any number of reasons.

2. Avatars Allow For Identity Exploration

Avatars in VR present an opportunity for clients to explore different representations of themselves with a coach and also in diverse social scenarios. Coaches can either participate as avatars themselves or observe and direct from afar as two or more clients take on different identities to practice everything from a first date to a networking event to a public speaking engagement. Guiding clients as they inhabit different identities can change perspectives, build confidence and raise self-awareness.

3. Simulations and Role Play Provide a Safe Space for Real World Scenarios

VR convincingly replicates the experience of sharing a realistic, three-dimensional space with others. This combined with the ability to take on different physical appearances is a powerful tool in changing behavior, growing empathy, and increasing confidence when confronted with the same situations in the real world. Scripted scenarios and other curriculum developed by coaches and translated into VR, offer coaches a powerful tool to provide services to remote clients in a safe, controlled, and shared setting.

4. Remote Sessions Offer A More Engaging and Focused Experience Than Zoom

VR headsets provide a distraction-free remote experience, blocking out external interruptions from other people and competing technologies like smart phones and monitors. For clients, this means being able to work intimately with a professional coach without needing to travel. This opens the door to providing services to new and underserved communities in ways that are more engaging, effective, and focused than Zoom.

5. Analytics and Playback Provide Behavioral Insights That Lead to Outcomes

Analytics like time speaking and directional gaze combined with the ability to record and replay sessions offer coaching tools that can help clients better understand their own behaviors. Repeated practice in a safe environment with feedback prepares clients for facing real challenges in their everyday lives.

Foretell Reality is a social VR platform which features and capabilities that support coaching and training of all kinds. For a demo, click here.

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