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Virtual Reality (VR) Collaboration with More Expressive Avatars Enhances Productivity

As social Virtual Reality (VR) continues to evolve, the ability to render more expressive avatars has become more of a focal point. But do more expressive avatars really enhance the sense of presence and connectedness?

To answer that question, researchers behind a recent study published by “Frontiers in Virtual Reality” compared a set of collaborative experiences in a consumer level VR headset and an ‘Highly Expressive Avatar Control System’ (HEACS) developed specifically for the study.

To render more expressive avatars, the HEACS used a set of rendering techniques to mimic facial expressions and synchronized lip movements and a set of external Kinnect cameras to track body and hand movements. The consumer level VR headset did not have these enhancements.

To analyze the effectiveness of avatars, participants played a game of charades with another participant through each of the two avatar systems.

The results showed “that participants interacting with highly expressive avatars felt more social presence and attraction and exhibited better task performance than those interacting with partners represented using low-expressive avatars.” 

Additionally, the study found that “participants prefer using the highly expressive avatar control system, which improves the task performance.”

While avatars available today through consumer headsets are able to convey expression through head and hand movements, this study indicates that further improvements to avatar expressiveness will continue to enhance the sense of presence, empathy, and connectedness.

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 including VR group therapy and support, soft skills training, and business collaboration. To schedule a demo, click here.

virtual reality (VR) soft skills
Collaboration, Soft Skills

Virtual Reality (VR) Soft Skills Training More Effective Than In-Person – PWC Study

A Harvard Business Review survey finds that “89% of executives reported difficulty recruiting candidates with the requisite soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and leadership”. Traditionally, in-person programs helped employees develop these vital skills, but the increase in remote working, accelerated by the pandemic, has made in-person training difficult to impossible.

With remote work here to stay for many people, Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) set out to determine whether the use of Virtual Reality (VR) could improve employee competence in two important soft skills areas – public speaking and collaboration. Through a pilot study, PWC sought to answer two specific questions:

1. Is VR soft skills training more effective than traditional training methods?

2. Is VR soft skills training more cost-effective to deploy than traditional training methods?

For the study, PWC developed a virtual reality (VR) training program for diversity and inclusion. The company’s original in-person class was used as a control variable. After implementing their VR program, PWC drew the following conclusions:

  • VR participants were up to 275% more confident to act on what they learned after VR soft skills training, which is a 40% improvement over traditional classroom training.
  • VR learners were up to four times more focused than classroom learners—VR learners also completed training four times faster than classroom learners.
  • VR participants were nearly four times more emotionally connected to the content they were learning.

VR-based learning can yield higher confidence and improved ability to apply the learning on the job because of the ability to practice in an immersive, low-stress environment. VR-based learning can also be more cost effective at scale, as the time required to complete a VR course is substantially lower than in-person courses. 

Foretell Reality is a social VR enterprise platform that enables authentic human interactions in immersive environments designed for soft-skills development and other use cases. Click here to schedule a demo.

virtual reality (VR) collaboration
Collaboration, Soft Skills

How does collaboration in VR stack up to in person? A new study aims to find out.

Zoom fatigue is real and face-to-face meetings are still rare. Can Virtual Reality (VR) offer a viable alternative to both?

A recent study set out to answer the question by comparing the effectiveness of group collaboration through multi-user immersive virtual reality (IVR), face-to-face (FTF) meetings, and video conferencing (VR).

The study included a final sample size of 174 participants from secondary schools, a vocational college, and a university. Groups of three participants were assigned the task of deciding on the most favorable candidate for a position out of four choices. 

In the FtF condition, participants were seated together around a circular table and their discussion was captured by a webcam. For the VC condition, group members were displayed on a 19” screen and used headphones. For the IVR condition, participants sat at a virtual table, using avatars to mask their true identities. Group communication and collaboration was then recorded, along with observations in social pressure and cognitive load. 

The following are some of the key findings of the study:

  1. IVR provided comparable multisensory inputs that mimicked face-to-face interactions. Participants demonstrated similar communication patterns in both IVR and face-to-face environments 
  1. Higher degrees of virtuality and engagement led to pooling of otherwise unshared information. This pooling was most likely due to the degree of spatial interactivity and social presence provided through VR environments. 
  1. No evidence was found for differences in extraneous cognitive load in IVR. Participants were not overwhelmed with remembering discussed information in virtual reality environments. 

The study concluded that “Multi-user IVR can help bridge the gap between the main advantages of IVR (simulation and manipulation of immersive three-dimensional objects) and the growing demand for effective collaboration of spatially distributed teams. This creates new opportunities for remote work that rely on spatial interactivity within a virtual environment.”

Even after the pandemic subsides, it is estimated that at least 16% of workers will continue to permanently work remotely and about 80% of employers plan to allow remote work at least some of the time after things return to normal.

Foretell Reality is a social Virtual Reality (VR) platform that enables authentic human interactions in immersive environments designed to promote communication, collaboration, and learning. 

virtual reality (VR) zoom fatigue
Collaboration

Zoom Fatigue is real. VR is here to help.

The term ‘Zoom Fatigue’ was coined over the past year to describe the general malaise associated with constantly being on video calls throughout the day.

Now researchers say that it is a real phenomenon and have identified four main causes including “excessive and intense eye contact, constantly watching video of yourself, the limited mobility of being stuck at your desk, and more energy spent identifying social cues you’d otherwise pick up on intuitively in person.”

Virtual Reality (VR) offers an alternative to video by addressing some of the root causes of Zoom Fatigue.

Excessive and intense eye contact – While eye contact is an important aspect of communication, staring at a panel of faces for prolonged periods of time on a flat screen is simply not natural. VR replaces the flat screen with a shared 3D environment in which participants are spaced naturally apart and conversations mimic those of the real world.

Constantly watching video of yourself – It is natural for humans to fixate on our own appearance and this can distract from natural conversation with others. In VR, everyone is represented as an expressive avatar. This lowers self-judgement and allows for less inhibited conversation.

Limited mobility of being stuck at your desk – Sitting in one place for long periods of time is not healthy mentally or physically. Current VR headsets are not tethered to a computer allowing you to take meetings from anywhere, standing or sitting.

More energy spent identifying social cues – Non-verbal communication can be equally important as speaking and listening. With video calls, those cues typically only happen from the shoulders up and within the confines of a 2D box. In VR, hand gestures, gaze direction, and overall body posture are observable in a 3D environment giving a more complete sense of how someone is reacting to and absorbing information and conversations.

Foretell Reality is a VR platform for remote communication that offers all of the benefits of 3D environments and avatars. We work with our clients to design experiences that fit their use cases in areas like group therapy and support, soft skills training, and business collaboration. Interested in a demo? Click here.

virtual reality (VR) virtual embodiment
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.

virtual reality (VR) isolation
Collaboration, Soft Skills, Therapy and Support

Foretell Reality: Transforming Remote Interpersonal Experiences

We’re excited to share another quick video below that provides visuals of some of our use cases including therapy and support, soft skills, and corporate collaboration. We believe VR is the next evolution of remote human communication just as the telegraph evolved to the telephone which evolved into the computer we all have in our pockets today.

virtual reality (VR) forecast
Collaboration

$4.5b VR Forecast Despite Challenges

Foretell Reality powers remote support groups for XRHealth, one of the innovative companies highlighted in this recent ABIresearch forecast of the 2020 Virtual Reality (#VR) market.

With the market expected to grow to $4.6b by the end of the year, declines in revenues from location-based VR due to COVID-19 are being made up for by in-home and enterprise solutions for training, learning, and physical and mental healthcare.

“companies such as XRHealth operating within the immersive healthcare sector have seen accelerated growth opportunities as patients seek alternatives to in-person meetings and sessions (e.g., physical and/or mental health therapy).”

Foretell Reality powers life-like experiences for XRHealth along with other companies and institutions for applications including therapy and support, soft skills development, and business collaboration.

#mentalhealth#virtualreality#digitalhealth

https://lnkd.in/gtYu429
Collaboration, Therapy and Support

Collaborative Data Analysis: Foretell Reality and D6

https://www.d6vr.io/

D6 develops tools to support multi-dimensional data visualization in Virtual Reality (VR). The platform allows analysts and others to visualize and manipulate complex data in 3D space, deriving insights that are faster, more powerful, and more memorable.

Through an integration with Foretell Reality, D6 was able to turn its single-user experience into one that allows shared data visualization workspaces in which clients and colleagues around the globe can present, discuss, and manipulate multidimensional graphs and charts as a group.

In addition to these shared data visualization spaces, D6’s “Hyperdesk” frees teams of remote analysts from the limits of a physical workspace. Colleagues can move between multiple customizable “Data Rooms,” with unlimited virtual monitor space, and integration of both traditional keyboard/mouse and hand gesture inputs.

As demonstrated by D6, collaboration in virtual reality not only overcomes geographic constraints, but even the limitations imposed by the physical world. Where else can remote team members collectively analyze three-dimensional data or view multiple screens at once while truly feeling like they are in the presence of their colleagues?

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

Collaboration

Virtual Reality is the Platform for Team Building

With a rapidly growing remote workforce, there is a risk of team members becoming ever more isolated from one another. While many platforms exist for connecting remote colleagues and teams, virtual reality (VR) is the only technology that makes team members in different physical locations feel like they are all sharing the same space.

A shared VR environment is not only a more natural way to collaborate, it also provides an opportunity to build cohesion, trust, and empathy through fun and challenging team building exercises. Immersive activities can range from collectively detonating a bomb to escaping the room to ping pong competitions to meditation retreats.

Team building can also involve role playing where different team members take on identities that place them in roles and scenarios they may never have in the real world. This allows for empathy and understanding of what other team members may feel and experience themselves. For example, a male colleague may play the role of a female of color during a pitching exercise or a manager can take on the role of a front-line employee dealing with a challenging customer.

Virtual reality for team building has many advantages not only to other remote collaboration platforms but also to real world exercises. These include:

  • Experience of being in the same environment versus sharing a screen.
  • No need for physical travel.
  • Team building activities not confined by constraints of the physical world.
  • Role play that builds empathy and cohesion among team members.
  • Cost savings for travel, lodging, and activity expenses.

Virtual reality is the only platform that truly brings a team together. In these challenging times and beyond, it offers an experience that is immersive, engaging, and most importantly, shared.

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

Collaboration

VR is the Future of Remote Meetings

This piece by Glimpse CEO Lyron Bentovim highlights the benefits of VR over video conference calls. Among them are higher engagement, more meaningful connections, fewer distractions, and the ability to mimic realistic peer-to-peer interactions.

Read more about each of these benefits here:

https://ceoworld.biz/2020/04/10/stop-your-video-conferencing-headaches-virtual-reality-is-the-future-of-remote-meetings
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