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Soft Skills

Three Examples of VR Soft Skills Training for Today’s World

Soft skills have commonly been overlooked in a society that values technical skills, or “hard skills.” Hard skills are more easily measured and therefore often the sole criteria for landing a job. So, the saying goes “hard skills get you hired, but a lack of soft skills will get you fired.” With a changing job market and a rise in social consciousness, employers are increasingly seeking out employees with strong soft skills – disturbed by the lack of communication and critical thinking skills within their current teams. Soft skills are applicable to every profession and give way to more meaningful interactions with co-workers. Let’s dive into a couple of the fields that have utilized Virtual Reality (VR) to strengthen soft skills.

As a police officer, you can expect to face a variety of hard-to-navigate situations over the course of your career. No amount of training can prepare you for high-risk environments involving adrenaline and the requirement to respond quickly. It all comes down to reflexes. The only problem is you can’t train your reflexes; they occur without conscious thought. What you can do is strengthen your soft skills: conflict resolution, communication, negotiation, self-control, empathy, patience, and active listening. The Athens County Sheriff’s Department is among the first of law enforcement agencies who have come to this realization, implementing VR soft skills training into their annual in-service this past fall. Rather than preparing for physical altercations or target practice, officers used VR headsets to immerse themselves in high-risk scenarios, strengthening their soft skills and giving them the tools to de-escalate situations in future encounters. By experiencing multiple different conflicts commonly encountered in the field, officers learned to avoid physical confrontation unless absolutely necessary. One scenario depicted a person in a mental health crisis, threatening self-harm. Officers were given the opportunity to analyze the situation and use soft skills to mitigate any rash decisions from the involved parties, preparing them to respond more accordingly when a similar scenario happens in real life.

Soft skills are often overlooked in career planning as well. Sandwell College, located in England, is among the first of higher education systems to acknowledge the significant absence of curriculum to train and develop the intangibles. Ben Haddock, Emerging Technologies Demonstrator, mentions: “There are a lot of things students aren’t taught about at school. Things like posture, body language, and eye contact. Employers expect work-ready job candidates and there is mounting pressure on institutions to make social skills training part of the curriculum.” The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist. Thus, the University has implemented VR technology that allows their students to record mock interviews, then switch avatars to analyze the behavior and composure that they need to improve upon. Students can become aware of their nervous ticks and shortcomings, then find ways to avoid them in future interviews. Bridgette Bennett, Head of the Professions and Innovations Academy at Sandwell, remarks: “We’re seeing confident students now going off to interviews and getting the jobs.” This comes as no surprise, considering that 84% of students reported higher confidence levels when going into ‘real life’ interviews. The trick is to observe yourself – a simple concept that would be difficult without the help of virtual reality.

Social Work is another great use case for virtual reality and one that has been recently piloted at Michigan State University. Because of the different environmental variations, trainees can experience important simulations that would otherwise be difficult to recreate – walking through a neighborhood, approaching and entering a home, and interviewing a family member. If students are able to prepare for tough situations before they enter the field, they’ll be much more equipped for the real thing. By having the opportunity to re-watch these encounters, students will also notice their mistakes or unconscious bias, making it easier to correct in future simulations. Social work is a stressful, emotionally taxing profession, but by using experiential learning tools such as VR, trainees can experience these challenges and not have to worry about making a mistake or saying the wrong thing. The beauty of VR is that you can repeatedly immerse yourself in an environment until you perfect your response.

There are various methods and approaches for soft skills training in VR. Fully immersive 360 video scenarios from different view points and role play through avatars are two powerful tools but the real power comes from the imagination of instructional designers and educators who employ these tools to make a difference in the real world.

Foretell Reality is a VR platform for soft skills development. We work with educators, coaches, and instructional designers to continuously develop tools and features that support various curriculum and teaching approaches.

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, Soft Skills, Therapy and Support

More Than Meets the Eye: Meta’s Haptic Glove

Virtual reality has traditionally been viewed as a technology that allows users to immerse themselves in computer-generated environments, giving them the opportunity to experience a vast number of scenarios and surroundings. Until recently, VR software only offered the ability to stimulate two senses: sight and sound. Various attachments have attempted to close this gap between fiction and reality by adding a smell or taste component, but the one sense that hasn’t been properly addressed, and is perhaps the most vital to addressing this gap, is touch. Enter: Meta’s haptic glove.

The haptic glove prototype offers the sensation of touching or holding objects in virtual reality. This is achieved with the help of hundreds of actuators – small inflatable motors that mimic the feeling of pressure. Meta is working to improve the functionality of this feature by enabling the glove to detect exactly where you are in a virtual field, how close you are in proximity to an object, as well as the physical properties of various objects. Meta Research Director Sean Keller believes in the large impact this will have: “We use our hands to communicate with others, to learn about the world, and to take action within it. We can take advantage of a lifetime of motor learning if we can bring full hand presence into AR and VR. People could touch, feel, and manipulate virtual objects just like real objects — all without having to learn a new way of interacting with the world.” 

Don’t get too excited though – this glove is years from being market ready. RL Research Process Engineer, Katherine Healy, addresses the manufacturing difficulties Meta is facing, considering the gloves are being individually assembled by skilled engineers. “We use semi-automated processes where we can, but manufacturing these gloves at scale will require the invention of new manufacturing processes,” Healy mentions. Despite these setbacks, VR technology is predicted to become widely accessible in coming years.

Haptic technology isn’t necessarily new to the market, it just hasn’t been widely available to the public, nor has it attracted the interest of people other than serious gamers or movie producers. It’s taken years for the public to welcome the idea that VR technology has more practical uses than just gaming or entertainment. 

Though initial applications may focus on gaming and hard skills training, areas like therapy and support, soft skills training, and real time collaboration will also benefit. With this glove, you’ll be able to realistically manipulate 3D product prototypes, shake hands while practicing mock job interviews, and make realistic, genuine connections with other people through the sensation of touch during therapy and support sessions. 

Foretell Reality is a social VR platform for therapy and support, soft skill training, and real time collaboration. We employ current technologies such as hand tracking and are constantly extending our capabilities to support the latest headsets and accessories. To learn more or schedule a demo, click here.

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.

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.

3D Study
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.

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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