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Collaboration, Soft Skills

Soft Skills Training in Virtual Reality (VR) 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.

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. 

Soft Skills, Therapy and Support

Study: VR Effective in Treating Public Speaking Anxiety

Public speaking anxiety (PSA) is one of the most common phobias affecting approximately 73% of the population. It is so common that it actually beats out the fear of death, spiders, or heights.

As with many phobias, one common treatment for PSA is exposure therapy. Exposure therapy involves confronting the situation you fear most while being observed and guided by a trained therapist or clinician. Through repeated exposure to what appears to be an insurmountable fear, the level of anxiety and stress are diminished over time.

Traditional exposure therapy can also involve guided visualization. If you are afraid of spiders, you are asked to visualize a spider approaching you. Over time, a real spider may be introduced in a controlled setting.

For public speaking anxiety in particular, the introduction of a realistic but “safe” scenario is more difficult to achieve. How do you bring together a room full of people to play the audience (let alone in a pandemic)? How do you expose people to different types of room set ups? Different size crowds? Different types of people?

In response to these challenges, a recent study looked at the effectiveness of guided exposure therapy in Virtual Reality (VR) to treat PSA. The study, which intentionally leveraged affordable hardware and psychologists only minimally trained in VR, concluded:

“VR exposure therapy can be effective under routine care conditions and is an attractive approach for future, large-scale implementation and effectiveness trials.” 

Among the studies finding were that patients’ self-reported a “robust” decrease in PSA following VR-assisted therapy and that the “exposure therapy exerted these benefits by reducing patients’ fear of negative evaluation and catastrophic beliefs.”

The study also found that “patients rated the quality of their speech performances higher after watching the avatar perform a playback of their speech.”

As the authors of the study point out, using VR to treat anxiety in general is not new.

“Dozens of high-quality trials since the early 2000’s support the efficacy of VR exposure therapy (VRET) for anxiety disorders (Carl et al., 2019; Fodor et al., 2018; Opriş et al., 2012), showing effect sizes similar to in-vivo exposure therapy (Wechsler et al., 2019) and that treatment effects generalize also to reduced fear of real-world equivalent phobic stimuli (Morina et al., 2015).” 

Using it to overcome fear of public speaking, however, seems to be particularly effective because it confronts one of the primary fears of public speaking – brain freeze. Ironically, the fear of being judged or negatively perceived by others can actually cause the exact outcome a speaker is trying to avoid.

“If your brain starts to freeze up, you get more stressed and the stress hormones go even higher. That shuts down the frontal lobe and disconnects it from the rest of the brain. It makes it even harder to retrieve those memories,” explains Dr. Michael DeGeorgia of Case Western University Hospitals in an article published by the National Social Anxiety Center.

Through the ability to repeatedly practice public speaking in front of convincing audiences of real or simulated people, VR provides a safe environment to reduce the stress and anxiety that leads to brain freezes. This in turn increases confidence which leads to less chance of a brain freeze, a virtuous cycle.

Foretell Reality works with partners to design therapeutic VR experiences that reduce stress and anxiety in different ways. One example is our work with Fordham University in which business students were placed in VR simulations with other students to practice presenting and pitching both to large crowds and to small groups of peers. Students donned VR headsets and entered environments replicating real world board rooms, auditoriums, and networking spaces.

For more information about Foretell Reality and our various partners and use cases, please visit our site or schedule a demo.

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.

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.

Other, Soft Skills

Recruitment and Hiring Through VR

Online interviews are now the standard for job hiring. They are of course, not without their own challenges. From technical glitches, lack of body language cues, difficulty maintaining eye contact, and judgements on camera position and background, online video interviews can be uncomfortable and challenging.

One way to improve this experience would be to shift it to Virtual Reality (VR). VR touts many benefits from enhancing eye contact and body language to allowing both parties to grasp the context of questions and fit better. An interview is an opportunity for both the interviewer and interviewee to learn more about one another. A prospective employee can tour the office workspace virtually and view the company culture firsthand.

VR allows the candidate to interact with virtual team members in an immersive environment, perhaps even working through simulations to demonstrate their expertise. VR also masks the physical appearance of a candidate, removing stigma and bias from the interview process and also relieving a source of stress for the candidate who now does not have to concentrate on their appearance or physical location. VR also allows for all participants to be better focused and attentive.

Though video and audio may be the standard at the moment for interviewing, forward thinking companies should consider VR which promises a much more immersive, unbiased, and lifelike alternative to find the best candidates.

Soft Skills

Four Ways VR Elevates Soft Skills Training

A recent LinkedIn survey revealed that 92% of talent professionals reported that soft skills are equal or more important in the hiring process than hard skills and 89% say that bad hires typically lack soft versus hard skill requirements.

While may seem counterintuitive, VR provides unprecedented means to replicate and practice real world social experiences, and advance soft skills:

1. Comfort in Anonymity. Improving soft skills requires playing out different roles and scenarios. This can be intimidating for those who don’t feel comfortable ‘acting’ or ‘pretending.’ With VR, identity and voice are fully anonymized freeing participants to focus on the ‘real’ situations they find themselves within VR.

2. Breaking Down Walls. Detailed and authentic environments provide a level of immersion that is hard to replicate within a traditional physical space. The feeling of having already experienced something results in greater confidence and familiarity when entering into actual situations.

3. The Immediacy of Empathy. Empathy is one of the fundamental soft skills to learn but also one of the most difficult to teach. With VR, roles can quickly be reversed creating an immersive change in point of view instantly. A doctor can immediately become a patient and vice versa. This allows participants to focus on visceral feelings instead of intellectual reactions.

4. The Man and the Machine. For VR soft skills training, AI provides an always on partner, ready to practice scenarios that require repetition. This is incredibly valuable but even more so when more people get involved. Feedback and encouragement provided by human participants that join AI role players provides the best of both worlds. AI provides a constant to evaluate and measure progress while humans provide motivation and direction (also soft skills).

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

Soft Skills

Foretell & Fordham Partner to Teach Professional Skills

Soft skills are a critical part of job performance, but they can be hard to practice and learn.

Participating in role play exercises improves soft skills, but making role play convincing, effective, and accessible for those not comfortable with acting and improvisation can be difficult.

In response to this challenge, Fordham University turned to Foretell Reality to help their business students learn key professional skills by acting out real world scenarios in virtual environments. With new names, genders, appearances, and voices, students are immersed in simulations designed to improve skills like negotiation and networking.

“Your brain actually assumes you’ve experienced the simulated environment, and it brings educational concepts to life for students,” explains. “When they leave class, they don’t say, ‘We learned about negotiating today’; they say, ‘I negotiated today,’ or, ‘I led a business meeting today.’ explained Lyron Bentovim, CEO of Glimpse Group of which Foretell Reality is a subsidiary.

With more and more businesses seeing tangible ROI from VR training, higher education is now benefiting from the same virtual technologies to prepare their students for the ‘real world,’ in whatever format it appears.

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

Soft Skills

Business Students Sharpen Soft Skills in VR

As part of an ‘Exploring Entrepreneurship’ class, business school students at Fordham University in New York are engaging in social VR simulations designed to improve their soft skills aptitude by focusing on areas like negotiation, public speaking, confidence, and active listening.

In a recent Washington Post article highlighting the partnership, Lyron Bentovim, Chief Executive of the Glimpse Group which is Foretell’s parent company, commented: “Your brain actually assumes you’ve experienced the simulated environment, and it brings educational concepts to life for students. When they leave class, they don’t say, ‘We learned about negotiating today’; they say, ‘I negotiated today,’ or, ‘I led a business meeting today.’

As anonymous avatars, students can change their appearance and alter their voice to take on any role in a given scenario. And while those in VR are immersed in highly life-like experiences, their colleagues without headsets can learn from viewing the action on any monitor while also providing feedback in real time.

Foretell Reality worked closely with Fordham to develop learning environments that replicated real world scenarios students would face after graduation. Students wore Oculus stand-alone headsets which allowed them to move comfortably, further creating a sense of immersion.

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

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