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VR for Agoraphobia
Therapy and Support, VR-Related

Virtual Reality to Treat Agoraphobic Avoidance

As defined by the Mayo Clinic, agoraphobia is “a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.” This can range from using public transportation to standing in line in a grocery store. Most people diagnosed with agoraphobia fear public spaces and crowds, thus they confine themselves to their home in order to avoid having a panic attack. Treatment involves psychotherapy and medication, but it takes time for symptoms to improve. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most widely used treatment because it gradually exposes patients to anxiety-inducing situations, teaching them how to manage their symptoms and overcome their fears. 

A recent study out of England analyzed the effectiveness of virtual reality therapy to treat agoraphobic avoidance and patients with psychosis. Researchers analyzed 346 patients who were clinically diagnosed with psychosis and “had self-reported difficulties going outside due to anxiety.” Over the course of 26 weeks, researchers conducted “a parallel-group, single-blind, randomized, controlled trial across nine National Health Service trusts in England.” They split patients into two groups – a VR therapy group and the usual care alone group (control). The VR group was immersed in several different environments over the course of treatment. Whether it be visiting a coffee shop or entering a waiting room, patients were coached the entire way through and encouraged to let go of defensive behaviors. Compared to the usual care alone group, the VR therapy group showed “significant reductions in agoraphobic avoidance and distress” in everyday situations. VR therapy “particularly benefited patients with severe agoraphobic avoidance, such as not being able to leave the home unaccompanied.” 

The results of this study indicate VR therapy as a powerful adjunct to cognitive behavioral therapy. This means that, with the use of immersive technologies such as VR, therapy will become much more widely accessible and affordable to patients, especially those who may be too anxious to leave their homes for treatment. Foretell Reality is a social VR platform that provides safe spaces for therapy and support, soft skills development, and other interpersonal activities like real time collaboration and group events. Please visit our website for more information or to schedule a demo.

Soft Skills, VR-Related

Virtual Reality for Learning a Second Language

A recent study asked twenty-one university students who were studying Spanish as a second language to compare the experience of practicing face-to-face with the experience of practicing in Virtual Reality (VR). Students carried out three sets of two dialogues each, one dialogue in VR using a head-mounted display and one with a fellow student in a physical space. Each set of dialogues was completed with different partners and content and participants. At the end of the experience, students were asked to fill out a survey about their experience.

According to researchers, “the survey showed overall positive experiences with social VR, and comparisons between F2F and VR conversations also yielded statistically significant findings indicating that VR can be a more fun way to practice speaking that can also reduce feelings of self-consciousness. A thematic analysis of the survey’s open-ended responses supported quantitative findings by highlighting lower stress when speaking in VR, increased enjoyment of being in virtual environments, and heightened engagement when speaking in VR.”

Virtual Reality offers various features which make it a unique tool for practicing spoken language and contextual word learning. Below are a few benefits that VR provides over video and even in-person learning. As with any other learning tool, the effectiveness of the instructional design and the instructor are fundamental to engagement and retention.

Expressive Avatars

Role play is uncomfortable in person and nearly impossible on Zoom. Trying to speak another language during role play adds another level of discomfort and distraction. By wearing the mask of an expressive avatar, language learners can focus on dialogue over how they act or appear. This was noted in the aforementioned study by students who described the “lower the stress when speaking in VR.”

Beyond reducing stress, avatar customization allows students the opportunity to take on different gender and identity roles during role play offering a broader range of interactions and scenarios. And, as noted below, combining personalized avatars with a library of interactive environments allows participants to play different roles while also interacting with other people, objects and media in the scene.

Interactive Environments

It is commonly accepted that immersion into a foreign language environment accelerates learning the language. By going to a farmers market in Barcelona on a daily basis, you will learn the names of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and pretty much every other staple quicker and with greater retention than by memorizing a set of flashcards.

Virtual Reality convincingly replicates real world environments including objects and people you would find in those settings. Instead of flipping through pictures in a book or watching a video animation, you can walk down an aisle filled with items that you would typically find in a drug store, clothing store, or grocery store. The experience can even be gamified. For example, receive 10 points for filling your shopping bag with five specified items and then interacting with the cashier in order to complete your purchase.

And populating these same environments with other students allows for conversational learning under the guidance of an instructor. For example, the role of the cashier above can be filled by a fellow language learner who now has the opportunity to practice interacting with a customer and with the local currency.

Tools for Instructors and Coaches

Virtual Reality offers new and unique ways not only to learn but also to teach a second language. Instructors can schedule sessions in different environments for specific groups of language learners or make spaces available for all levels of students to drop in and practice 24/7. They can participate in role play or observe from afar. Innovative features like direct audio channels allow instructors to speak into the ear of one student so as not to disrupt the scene being played out. And instructors can share audio clips, images, and video as well as lead guided 360 tours that provide insights into other cultures while reinforcing language learning.

Analytics and Playback

Language learning sessions in VR generate a variety of analytics that can be tracked over time. Interactions with objects, time spent speaking, and direction of gaze during role play and other exercises offer tangible feedback on progress and can be used to gamify the learning experience. For example, a student who advances to the next level of comprehension may receive a unique piece of avatar clothing denoting this achievement. This also indicates to other students what level their peers have achieved so they can practice with those at their level.

Additionally, instructors have the ability to record any session and play it back within the actual 3D environment. This allows students to listen to themselves and their peers without being self-consciousness of how they appear in a recorded video.


The most popular VR headset on the market, the Meta Quest 2 had already shipped 10 million units by last November and that was before the holiday season where it was one of the most popular technology gifts. Though often marketed for gaming or exercise, Meta has recently placed an emphasis on supporting educational and training experiences. Additionally, other device manufacturers are rapidly entering the market creating more competition both from a price and capabilities perspective.

Just as the rise of the internet and mobile devices allowed millions of people to learn a second language online, the rapid adoption of VR by consumers offers an opportunity to take second language learning to another level, one that reduces stress, increases retention, and adds an element of engagement not possible through any other medium.

Foretell Reality is a VR platform that provides secure environments, customizable avatars, and instructor tools for interpersonal skills development including second language learning. Please contact us for a demo or with any questions.

Therapy and Support, VR-Related

Benefits of VR for Five Types of Therapy and Support Groups

Speaking with a therapist or social worker over video has become much more commonplace over the past two years for obvious reasons. The experience, though not perfect, provides for ‘face-to-face’ communication, albeit in two-dimensional space, and it addresses the need for remote treatment which is critical.

The same cannot be said when it comes to group therapy and support. The Brady Bunch style grid of faces on a flat screen simply does not work well when it comes to facilitating open and natural group conversation.

Virtual Reality offers an alternative to video, one that realistically mimics a group setting and the dynamics of group interactions in three dimensions rather than two. Not only that, features such as personalized avatars, shared customizable environments, and moderator controls provide certain benefits not possible online and even with in-person groups.

Below are examples of five groups where VR offers specific benefits over video.

Rare Diseases

People with the same rare diseases and their families face many unique challenges including physical limitations, lack of information, and the ongoing emotional toll of living with uncertainty. Support groups in VR offer an alternative to having to be on camera whatever condition you may be in. Everyone in the group appears as a playful though expressive avatar adding levity to difficult conversations. And VR is an amazing tool for sharing information whether it is videos, websites, or even 3D models and 360 videos related to a particular condition.


Anonymity is critical to many people seeking recovery, particularly for those who may be well known in their profession or community. This dissuades many people from seeking the support of others. VR allows complete anonymity through an avatar and voice masking while also providing the feeling of shared presence that is core to the support group experience.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Group sessions are one of the main activities in DBT therapy. Each session follows curriculum developed by clinicians and lead by trained therapists. Sessions can cover concepts like distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness and involve sharing of videos and other materials as well as role play. VR is a very powerful tool for mindfulness exercises and it has often been called the ’empathy machine’ for its ability to change ingrained attitudes and behavior.


We wrote a recent blog post about the challenges and opportunities social VR presents for the LGBTQ+ community. Safe, secure support groups lead by either a peer, social worker, or clinician offer an alternative to those who want to remain anonymous but also still feel viscerally connected to others. Avatars also offer a unique opportunity to explore identity and empowerment without the constraints and limitations of real world appearances.


Autism is a spectrum disorder meaning it affects everyone differently. Adults and children with autism may have varying levels of challenge with behavior, social skills, verbal and non-verbal communication, and sensory and attention issues. A tailored group experience in VR lead by a trained therapist offers a focused and controlled experience not possible online. Spaces specifically designed to feel calming and comfortable can also allow for practicing social skills and interpersonal communication through avatar role play. Similarly, the anonymity afforded by an avatar facilitates open conversation and provides an avenue to explore facial expressions and gestures.

Foretell Reality is a social VR platform that provides safe spaces for therapy and support, soft skills development, and other interpersonal activities like real time collaboration and group events. Please visit our website for more information or to schedule a demo.

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.

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 the 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 Zuckerberg’s metaverse isn’t the only game in town meaning more choices for consumers, more innovation, and less centralized control.

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.

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 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.


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.

singing competition
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.

North-Star care
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.”

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