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Coaching, Soft Skills, VR-Related

Virtual Reality (VR) Provides Unique Opportunities for Coaches

Role-play is an integral part of a child’s development and a potent tool for the continuation of skill acquisition and honing long into adulthood. Because it allows participants to learn, not by reading a book or listening to a lecture, but by actually doing and practicing, role-play is experiential learning – an accelerated learning method. Medical students, teachers, and in more recent years, managers, have all benefited from role-play scenarios. Coaching managers using role-play scenarios helps them to build skills through rehearsal and direct feedback. 

Effective managers require competence in many areas with communication as the common denominator across the skillset. Considering that the number one reason employees cite for leaving a position is the relationship with their manager, investing in management coaching is paramount for retention. All types of communication can be rehearsed in role-play scenarios, but of particular significance is navigating difficult conversations, such as delivering a negative performance review. Difficult conversations are inherently uncomfortable for most people, and thus are often avoided or rushed in order to minimize discomfort. Role-play is a type of exposure that desensitizes the participants’ fear and anxiety to engage in conflict, thereby facilitating more productive conversations. 

Given the global nature of modern companies, it often isn’t feasible for an executive team or for regional managers to gather in one place for management coaching. This difficulty has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. And there is an evolving trend of companies offering employees a work-from-home or hybrid (remote/office) model to attract sought-after candidates. Virtual Reality (VR) coaching offers a unique solution: through multi-participant VR simulations, teams can gather in an immersive space, such as a boardroom, without needing to leave their homes. 

Coaching in VR is not just logistically convenient, but it offers features that are not possible with in-person coaching. Foretell Reality’s platform allows users to build their own avatars. This can be an empowering experience but also allows participants to switch roles easily. By choosing a different avatar and playing the role of the employee on the receiving end of a negative performance review, managers can stand in the (virtual) shoes of the employee, thus increasing their capacity for empathy. They can understand what it feels like when feedback is indirect and vague, for example. 

Another unique feature Foretell offers is a playback “hologram”. Role-play scenarios can be recorded and participants are given the opportunity of observing their avatar following the exercise. Rather than a coach giving feedback regarding lack of eye contact, for example, the participant can actually observe her avatar avoiding direct gaze, perhaps by looking down or to the side. In fact, Foretell’s software can even measure the amount of eye contact during conversations. Through  watching the hologram recording, participants can more objectively observe their behavior. They might be surprised to observe that they came across as rather aggressive through their hand gestures or tone of voice. Having these epiphanies through direct observation is more powerful than hearing the feedback second-hand from a coach. Of course, the coach can play an instrumental role by helping the participant process their observations and imparting helpful guidance for the next practice round.  

Recording and playback in Foretell Reality.

Additional features include a personal tablet for each avatar that is not viewable by other participants. This creates a potential for dynamic role-play scenarios wherein each participant has an objective that they need to achieve during the exercise. The tablet may contain information about their role-play partner, perhaps related to their background and performance issues. The coach has the ability to change an objective at any point during the scenario. Additionally, Foretell’s VR software includes a “whisper” feature that allows a coach to speak to one of the participants, and only that participant can hear the feedback. In the middle of a heated scenario, a coach might whisper a tactic to help diffuse tension, for example. 

The potential for virtual reality coaching is limitless. It does not require travel or other logistical hurdles. Rather, managers can be instantly transported to a shared space with a coach, to build the confidence and skills needed to be more effective managers. Foretell Reality’s features create the perfect environment for creative role-plays and instant feedback. 

Coaching, Soft Skills

Update with Video: Dating Coach Leverages VR to Improve Relationships from the Start

Dating is hard. It was hard before the pandemic, but especially now as many singles are resuming in-person dating, it’s tough to ignore the social skills which atrophied over quarantine. While social encounters like first dates were always awkward, social anxiety is particularly (and predictably) acute post-pandemic, illustrating how many people could benefit from practicing social skills in safe, controlled, simulative environments. The pandemic saddled us with a “new collective experience of social anxiety,” prompting many to seek help reintroducing themselves into the dating pool.

Video captured during one of Grace Lee’s sessions in Foretell Reality.

That’s where someone like Grace Lee comes in. Grace is a dating coach who specializes in online dating: she helps curate your online profile, diagnose first date successes and mishaps, deepen your ability to connect on dates, and ultimately equip you to present a fully realized version of yourself to others. Her line of work falls into the category of soft skills training, forming the foundation of her partnership with Foretell Reality. Foretell Reality specializes in creating tools in Virtual Reality (VR) for soft skills development, corporate training, executive coaching, group and individual therapy, peer support, and other social situations where participants benefit from participating and practicing in VR.

But while soft skills like communication and empathy are increasingly valuable, both professionally and personally, they are very difficult to develop. Testing grounds like mock interviews and other role-play scenarios can be awkward at best and intimidating at worst. Trial-by-fire education, meanwhile, can lead to a slew of bad experiences and missed opportunities with little sense of progress being made. The convenience, accessibility, and anonymity VR offers address many of these issues, but even Foretell Reality General Manager Dror Goldberg acknowledges that “no matter how awesome the VR experience is, it eventually comes down to the specific curriculum and the specific instructor” helming the ship. Foretell, meet Grace; Grace, meet Foretell.

Recently, I interviewed Grace and Dror to learn more about the new partnership between Foretell Reality and Grace’s company, A Good First Date. We talked about the advantages VR offers for date coaching and soft skills development, the importance of virtual embodiment, and how the pandemic changed the worlds of dating and VR. From the outset, Grace made it clear that they were not working toward dating in VR. Grace firmly maintains that “through all of these changes,” both technological and epidemiological, “people who are looking for a real relationship want to meet in the real world.” VR is instead a revolutionary tool, improving elements of date coaching like conversing in a safe space, first date scenarios in romantic settings, live feedback between coach and trainee, and reflection by playing back a recording of the scene. 

Given the importance of physical attraction in dating, it may seem counterintuitive that anonymized avatars are a key advantage of VR. But remember that this isn’t VR dating, it’s VR date coaching: you’re training for a date in-person by simulating dates in VR. “The use of avatars is of critical importance because of the anonymity it provides,” Grace explains. Avatars “take away the anxiety people have about their appearance,” allowing you to instead “show up as a neat representation of yourself and act more like yourself” for the simulated dates. Dror agrees that avatars “eliminate the obstacles to behaving naturally,” in VR scenarios, stripping date simulations down to the trainable elements: the dynamic of conversation and the art of getting to know someone.

Virtual avatars are a boon to soft skills training in general, as they allow users to feel more comfortable practicing social skills and sharing personal experiences in group settings. Embodied in a new persona, users can feel safer and behave more naturally without feeling exposed or judged. Avatars, as Dror puts it, present “a way to liberate yourself when you want to share emotions, when you don’t want to be stigmatized, when you don’t want to be judged,” a crucial advantage for date coaching in VR compared to coaching in-person. Dating is particularly personal and intimate, and the more comfortable individuals feel when practicing their first dates, the more effective date coaching will be.

The medium of VR also benefits instructors, as it transforms how instructors occupy space during simulations and equips them with quantifiable data for in-the-moment feedback. The ability to record and playback sessions beat-by-beat is highly valuable for instructors. How many times did you interrupt during a conversation? How many closed-ended questions were posed? Instructors in traditional settings may pick up on these trends in broad strokes, but with video feedback, “date coaching can become a measurable, iterative process.”

Watching replays of past date coaching sessions could be uncomfortable for users, but avatars provide a degree of separation which allows users to objectively self-reflect. Grace explains that with avatars, “people will be able to observe themselves, but in a way that doesn’t feel as embarrassing as it might if it was an actual video from real life.” VR also smoothens the trainer-trainee dynamic: normally, an instructor hovering over you while you try to ignore their presence leads to mixed results at best. In VR, however, the instructor can remain entirely invisible while observing the first date interaction between two participants. Instructors can choose to what extent they’re engaged in the simulation: they can remain entirely unheard and unseen, they can participate as an explicit third party, or they can provide live feedback to individual participants without the other knowing. 

Toward the end of our interview, I asked Grace and Dror the same question pertaining to their respective fields: how has the pandemic changed dating and VR? Both responded with answers framed by the same theme: openness. Grace described how during the pandemic, “a lot of people started to question the way they were dating,” with social isolation in particular prompting people to “really look more seriously at pursuing a meaningful relationship.” As the pandemic precluded hookup culture and quarantine drastically constricted social circles, people became more open to the idea of forging a deep connection with a partner. A successful and genuine first date becomes even more important in a world where real-life social interaction is limited.

Dror’s answer echoed similar sentiments. Connectivity was what people missed most during quarantine, and many are now recognizing the need to develop technologies which bring people together digitally. Dror identifies how the pandemic “prepared the hearts and minds” of consumers to adopt VR technology. With restrictions lifting and many reentering the dating pool with a fresh mindset, now is the ideal time to learn how to bring substance and meaning to a relationship from the very first date. Substantial first dates can now be practiced and perfected in VR, equipping users with the experience and confidence to go from a good first date to a great new relationship. 

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.

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.

Coaching, Soft Skills

Changing The Way That Humans Date Through Virtual (VR) Technology

The stigma and challenges of online dating can often hinder people from trying it out. Between the focus on physical appearances, awkward text exchanges, and exaggerations about goals and dreams, online dating can be an uncomfortable and unfulfilling experience.

A recent Psychology Today article examined whether recent advances in Virtual Reality (VR) might be a better alternative to online or even in person dating.

One obvious advantage the author points out is that VR provides an amplified sensory experience. Life-like expressive avatars not only provide a true feeling of presence with a dating partner but also take away inhibitions and preconceptions tied to physical appearance. As technology advances, epidermal VR, the ability to mimic the sensation of touching another person, could add another enhanced sense of connection not possible through current online platforms.

The ability to personalize avatars to be something other than realistic can also lead to self-expression, exploration, and connection that might not otherwise occur. “Rather than being deceptive, avatars could be part of the fun of VR dating. With avatars, people could choose to be realistic about how they look, or they could experiment; for example, by traveling across time to go on dates as younger or older versions of themselves.” 

Another advantage to using this VR technology is that the locations that you can travel to are endless. “You could jump out of a plane, journey to outer space, or dive underwater for a scuba diving expedition, all in an evening.” The author points out that more exhilarating dating experiences in VR could actually lead to ‘excitation transfer,’ the phenomenon where people “misattribute the arousal they feel from doing something exhilarating to those around them.”

Lastly, the author points out that VR dating provides the opportunity to practice and improve interpersonal skills whether those are applied in the real world or they stay in VR. By practicing real life dating scenarios with a coach or even having an ‘invisible ghost’ coach available during an actual date, “those who struggle to navigate social situations on their own” could benefit from guidance generally not available from online platforms.

Foretell Reality is a social virtual reality platform that supports many different types of avatars with varying degrees of realism and expression for different use cases involving remote interpersonal communication.

Are you a dating coach? Click here to contact us and schedule a demo.

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