VR for training humans on soft skills — ie interacting with other humans — has really taken off over the last year. There’s many examples of successes, from doctors learning to better relate to patients all the way to retail workers learning how to deal with unusual client circumstances. In this age of automation, human interaction skills are still in very high demand. Luckily, VR is an excellent technology for training and practicing use of what are known as soft skills.
Our client, University of Arkansas – Pulaski Tech, for instance created a VR application to help students better engage in public speaking. Lennon Parker, the designer of the app, explained in our interview with him that the app is designed to provide a comfort level to something that can be inherently uncomfortable to a lot of people (to wit, many people list public speaking as a greater fear than death!)
Because virtual reality is so great at simulating a real-life situation, but can be acccessed at anytime from anywhere, users can practice human interaction without the need for any other individuals. This allows for greater repitition and a “soft introduction” to the skillset being taught. Ultimately, you can immerse yourself (or your employees) in any number of situations before they encounter it for the first time.
Below, we’ll walk you through some of the important things to consider while building a soft skills app using InstaVR. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Support team or drop in for our live Wednesday trainings. Best of luck with building out your training app to help encourage people skills!
Choose a Very Particular Scenario to Present in VR
With your first app, specificity is key. If you’re training a sales associate, for example, you wouldn’t want to create an app showcasing an interaction with a specific type of customer. There’s not enough takeaways or recall if you create too generic of a scenario. You’d want to pick a specific, unique customer to showcase within the VR application — perhaps an angry customer or a handicapped customer or a customer who doesn’t natively speak the same language as the sales associate.
Specificity is key. You can make multiple apps, so you can address many different types of scenarios. But be sure you have a goal before building out each app — what type of learnings do you want the VR user to take away from the experience?
Keep the VR Experience Relatively Short (ie less than 5 minutes)
Many people new to VR don’t understand some of the nuances of the technology. For example, the best VR experiences are in higher-end headsets like the Oculus Quest, but consequently the Quest is a bit bulky and immersion can cause sickness/fatigue after excessive immersion. So unlike say a half hour training course you’d post online for employees, you want to keep each VR experience relatively short. Our suggestion is less than 5 minutes, and less than 3 minutes is even better.
Film from a “Point of View” Perspective
Filming in 360-degrees is often easier than traditional filming. Check out our article for tips and tricks specific to 360 filming. One of the important things for training soft skills is doing the filming from a human’s Point of View (POV) — meaning you really feel like you’re talking to another person in the VR app.
To accomplish this, you’ll need a couple things. First off, a monopod or tripod to set up the camera at eye level. Secondly, a good microphone so the audio seems realistic. If you have a good high-end camera — say an Insta360 Pro — the built in microphone may be enough. Though many of our clients also use additional lava mics.
Finally, you want to give good camera direction to your actors to look deep into the primary focal point of the camera, as if they were talking to a person. Because we know most people focus on the front 180-degrees of a VR experience, you could theoretically situate someone behind the camera to even achieve a more realistic conversation.
Regardless of approach, the result should feel like you’re having an actual conversation.
Film a Couple Different Versions of the Same App
Making a single app to teach a particular soft skill is good. Making multiple ones is even better!
It really drives home the lesson and the feeling that you’re trying to teach. For instance, our client Stanford University School of Medicine trains new Residents on how to deal with distractions while talking to patients. There are many potential distractions though. A single app can capture maybe one or two of those. But it’s better to have multiple apps with slightly different versions of the distraction, rather than one experience with all the distractions jammed in.
You’ve already set up the scene and placed the camera for filming, so additional filming shouldn’t take much additional time! And InstaVR’s subscription pricing model means we’re not charging you per app. So you can make a handful of apps to convey the same language, at the exact same cost to you.
Go for as Immersive a Headset as You Can Afford
One of the keys to VR for soft skills training working is to make the immersion as “likelike” as possible. That means investing in headsets that provide the most immersive qualities.
Yes, ideally you’d like to invest only $10/headset and buy Google Cardboards.
But the truth is you’re *aware* you have a phone inside Cardboard on your head. That’s distracting and takes away from the realism.
For $200 each, you can purchase an Oculus Go which has a much better user experience. That’s why Wal-Mart purchased 17,000 of them to train sales associates.
The newest headsets — from the Oculus Quest to the Varjo — provide an even better visual experience to mimic reality. Yes, they’re expensive, but if this is for very high-stakes people training, like in a hospital or emergency situation, it might be worth the investment.
Do Follow Up Testing
Your initial app may be to acclimate the user to a particular situation. For subsequent apps, actually test them in a similar scenario. See if they’ve learned from the VR experience you initially provided them.
What does this mean?
For example, if you’re training social workers on how to deal with mentally ill clients… the first app may just expose them to a person with a particular mental illness. In subsequent apps, create scenarios where the social workers have to respond. Create an “incident” within the VR that demands an action.
By viewing the reaction of the VR user, you can ascertain whether the soft skill you were trying to acclimate them to was successfully acquired.
VR has come a long way in 3 years! We’re now at the point with 360-degree cameras and VR headsets that we can train people on how to interact with a wide range of people. VR training of people skills is an accurate substitute for actually dealing with the specific people.
Whether you’re training new employees for a job or training existing employees for a specific (though unlikely) event, VR people skills training is showing great results. VR Training isn’t just for how to use equipment or physically do a job, it’s also for how to maximize your human interactions!