With increasing demand among employers for employees with great interpersonal communication skills, VR training company Talespin is bringing ‘virtual human’ training scenarios to its platform.

‘Soft skills’—those that allow you to guide tense interactions with empathy and strong communication—are critical to the success of employees worldwide. LinkedIn reported in its 2018 Workspace Learning Report that there’s a great demand for ‘soft skills’ in talent developers, executives, and people managers. However, non-interactive forms of media don’t convey these skills effectively, and not every business has time (or budget) for its employees to reenact the often volatile scenarios which put them to the test. Talespin is building virtual human technology—AI-driven characters designed to look and act like humans—into its platform for scenario-based interpersonal communication training.

Talespin’s training platform places the user directly into a scenario guided by what the company claims is a realistic simulation of a person-to-person discussion. Each scenario is designed to be as lifelike as possible, harnessing the power of branching narrative, speech recognition and natural language processing to simulate a VR experience that can train the user on an experiential level. The idea is to present users with the messy, human side of difficult interactions in a way that will stick in their ‘emotional muscle memory’ long after they’ve exited the training simulation.

Image courtesy Talespin

Imagine that, instead of watching a training video for how to direct interactions with customers, clients, and other employees, you get to dive into a fully realized simulation of the exact interaction you’re meant to have. Inside of the simulation, Talespin says, you can develop an immediate understanding of your impact on the person in front of you (from any number of possible conversational paths), but also how you yourself might act in each turn of the conversation.

Talespin hopes its virtual human tech will afford you a chance to not only flatten out the kinks in your own communication, but to understand the essential elements of a specific interpersonal scenario and develop the skills necessary to handle it. The hope is that these skills can be honed virtually before they are tested in the workplace.

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The example provided by Talespin during its initial demo was a ‘virtual human’ named Barry, who the user (playing the role of a People Operations Manager) was expected to terminate. Talespin found that termination is one of the most universally difficult workplace conversations, so it made sense to start from there.

“When a user interacts with Barry in the simulation, they navigate hundreds of possible conversation paths to effectively (or ineffectively) terminate Barry, face common wrongful termination pitfalls, and experience Barry’s realistic speech, body language, and human-like mannerisms,” Talespin said on its official blog.

Image courtesy Talespin

Listed on the Virtual Human page of Talespin’s website are a handful of potential use cases for ‘virtual human technology’, including but not limited to:

  • Interviews
  • Unconscious Bias Training
  • Sensitivity Training
  • De-escalation Training
  • Business Negotiations
  • Technical Support
  • General Customer Service
  • Public Speaking
  • Facilitating Group Discussions
  • etc.

The technology is built for scalability, the company says, to match each client’s needs. In addition to Barry, other initial ‘demo’ scenarios that Talespin has created include cold sales calls, employee performance reviews, and similarly emotional workplace conversations that would demand de-escalation.

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  • dk

    cheaper this way?

  • jwvanderbeck

    One aspect of VR and AI that really interests me is how they can be used for treating psychological and behavioral issues. Things like this really contribute to that goal. Many people have problems relating to other people and people who say “just go talk to people” don’t rally understand how hard that is for some. By providing an environment where interpersonal skills can be explored and taught that is considered as “safe” would be really great.

  • Mike

    Talespin? Will this have Baloo in it? Is Disney involved?

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  • This is a very interesting use of VR. Soft skills now are one of the most useful skills for a person during its job life

  • Do you mean hire actors? It would be more expensive…

  • oompah

    This is it
    I will ditch all games to buy this
    and more
    management simulation is the greatest thing VR can teach
    and even govts can use it to improve behavior of its citizens
    (i didnt say uighirs nor wuslims ;-)
    becuz many times the madra$a taught $haria law ppl hardly know whats going on in the real world

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  • Albert Graham

    Wow; this combination or the use of VR is amazing, sounds very interesting and by the way thanks for sharing the information to readers as it always nice to be updated with the trends.
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  • Fourfoldroot

    In theory it’s great, but is the voice recognition and artificial intelligence good enough? I somehow doubt it.

  • Play2Speak

    Great use of VR and AI for sure!

    If linked this idea, check this game on Steam too https://store.steampowered.com/app/926480/The_Secret_of_Puffin_Cove/

    Same concept, just for language learning!

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