By Kyle Jackson, CEO & Co-Founder of Talespin
As the world becomes increasingly automated and technologically advanced, nurturing human-to-human interactions is more important than ever. Developing fundamental attributes like communication, leadership and empathy —commonly referred to as ‘soft skills’ — are critical components for building a more collaborative and inclusive future of work.
According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report, investing in soft skills was a top priority for talent development teams in 2018. However, organizations are struggling to find effective ways to teach and develop these skills. That’s why we’re excited to introduce Talespin’s virtual human technology as an innovative solution for teaching soft skills in the workplace.
What is Virtual Human Technology?
We’ve taken a software-based approach to training soft skills that leverages virtual reality (VR) training modules and virtual characters powered by artificial intelligence (AI). The premise behind the software is giving employees a safe space to practice challenging interpersonal situations, while using AI to create emotionally realistic characters to stimulate and challenge them. When a trainee enters a virtual human training experience, VR provides the environment and medium for the most effective delivery of the training scenario, while AI gives users a counterpart to interact with and carry out the other half of the simulated conversation.
Testing the Virtual Human Hypothesis: Enter ‘Barry’
Having heard from some of the world’s largest organizations that training communication skills was a pain point, we wanted to determine if VR and AI could provide the emotional realism needed to accurately simulate interpersonal interactions in the workplace. To test this hypothesis, we chose one of the most universally recognizable scenarios when it comes to challenging workplace conversations: an employee termination. Enter ‘Barry.’
Our first demo put users in the shoes of a People Operations Manager tasked with firing an employee named ‘Barry.’ Barry is a highly realistic, AI-powered virtual character that we created to represent an employee slated for termination. 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.
If the combination of these elements allowed users to feel the real emotion and stress associated with a termination during the course of their virtual conversation with Barry, our hypothesis proved true. After showing Barry to learning and development teams, placing him in Fortune 100 innovation labs, and subjecting our AI friend to hundreds of hours of simulated termination, the verdict was in: virtual humans can help us become better humans.
Virtual Humans can help us become better humans.
How can we use Virtual Humans?
We’re using virtual human technology to help our customers simulate use cases ranging from conflict resolution to negotiation, sales, leadership, and managerial training. Some of the initial scenarios we’ve built include cold-calling simulations to help sales employees gain experience talking to customers, allowing managers to practice employee performance reviews, and de-escalating emotional situations in the workplace. With this technology, we’re empowering people to become better managers, colleagues, and communicators, and in turn, helping our customers unlock innovation and growth across a variety of industries.
Virtual Human Technology
We built Barry and his cohort of virtual characters by leveraging speech recognition, AI, Natural Language Processing, gamified scoring, dynamic feedback, and enterprise learning management system (LMS) integration. The combination of these technologies allows L&D and People Operations teams to simulate human interactions with an emotional realism beyond what is possible with role play and video/text-based learning modules. By taking subject matter and learning curriculums from our customers and integrating it with our virtual human pipeline, we’re able to create an infinite number of custom learning modules for improving employee skill development in the workplace.
Virtual human technology comes as the latest addition to our platform of XR business solutions, and we’re excited to continue exploring how this technology can help people become more effective and engaged with their jobs, and make workplaces across the world more empathetic, engaging, and collaborative.