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BODYSWAPS: Soft Skills Simulator that Leverages Embodied VR & Conversational AI

Somewhere Else Solutions: a London-based innovation agency, is launching BODYSWAPS®: a soft skills training platform powered by AI & VR.

Useful links:

Somewhere Else – BODYSWAPS® page (link)

Somewhere Else – Corporate DNA case study page (link)

Corporate DNA – Experience Walk-through (link)

Reinventing Soft Skills Training

Communication, Leadership, Team Spirit…mastering soft skills is key to career success. For organisations, the ability to turn employees into smart, collaborative and self-directed leaders is often the difference between thriving and surviving.

Yet, upskilling a workforce is difficult. E-learning formats are not adapted to soft skills training and deploying roleplay-based coaching at scale is costly and impractical. Still, a 2017 survey by Globoforce found that 93% of managers feel they need more soft skills training. (source)

Virtual Embodiment & Implicit Learning

That’s where Virtual Reality comes in. The medium combines the scaling potential of e-learning with the experiential impact of face-to-face training. In VR you can embody anyone and take part in virtually any imaginable simulated social interaction. Feedback is also easy to get with built in AI systems for recording and analysing your performance.

Fascinating studies by the likes of the University of Barcelona or Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab have shown how embodied VR experiences can have a powerful impact on behavior: from reducing implicit racism bias, to priming altruistic behavior to making domestic abusers less likely to recidivate.

Applied to the world of work, experiential VR training means that organisations can now deliver, document and assess workforce behavioral change at scale for a fraction of the financial and time cost of traditional roleplay-based coaching.

Introducing BODYSWAPS®

That body of research is what inspired Somewhere Else to create BODYSWAPS®: a soft skills training platform powered by AI and Virtual Reality.

The platform lets employees practice their soft skills by acting out a range of high-pressure workplace scenarios with AI-powered virtual humans. You could be a manager giving an employee negative feedback, a CEO pitching an idea to the Board or a young woman in a male-dominated group meeting, etc.

In each BODYSWAPS® experience, you get to step inside a new virtual body and, using your own voice and natural body language, you interact with virtual characters. Like in real life, this is not a “choose A or B” simulation, you have to think on your feet and the pressure to perform is real.

Uniquely, at the end of each BODYSWAPS® experience, you are given the choice to swap bodies with the virtual character and watch back your session in real time. You actually get to see through their eyes and experience what it feels like to interact with yourself so you can better reflect on what you said and how you said it.

As Christophe Mallet, co-founder of Somewhere Else Solutions, puts it “BODYSWAPS® allows employees to get a new perspective on how they are reacting and behaving during certain situations. This, in turn, creates empathy and self-awareness, which are two of the most powerful drivers of effective behavioral change.”

The DAVID Project

One of the first BODYSWAPS® created by Somewhere Else is the DAVID Project: a performance management scenario developed with Corporate DNA Consulting, a global leadership firm.

After picking your virtual body, a suited man in his mid-thirties, you enter an office in a swanky London City building. You’re here to discuss with David, an employee whose performance has been dropping.

First you listen to David blaming his shortcomings on others and begging you for mercy. Then it’s your turn to respond to him directly, using the VR headset’s microphone. Once done, you hit the BODYSWAP button and find yourself in David’s body, watching and listening to yourself back from his perspective. You get to experience what it feels like to be on the receiving end of your own management style.

Finally, you access analytics about your performance, leveraging AI for semantics and speech emotion data to give you personalised feedback and tips. You can decide to share a video recording of your performance with anyone or to just have another go until you’re happy with it.

For Tom Cross, a Performance Psychologist at Corporate DNA, it’s “the emotional impact that the VR technology gives you, the speed of feedback and the ability to have another go speeds up that cycle of behavioral change and will enable you to become more effective as a leader”.

Jamie Duncan, Chief Performance Officer at Corporate DNA concludes “This is a fantastic technology that allows you to feel how you come across, to step into someone else’s shoes and actually be impacted by yourself. At the end of the day, your mindset is greater than your skill set, your attitude is far more important than what you learned.”

Somewhere Else is currently working on deploying BODYSWAPS® across a range of learning & development topics including mental healthcare staff training, safeguarding awareness for the NGO sector, diversity & inclusion, leadership and more. More info about BODYSWAPS® can be found here.

Additional Quotes:

“Historically, there’s always been a focus on skills, there’s always been a focus on knowledge. What we find though, is knowledge isn’t power. It’s what you can actually do with that knowledge. And the way you can take that forward is your mindset is greater than your skill set, your attitude is far more important than what you learned.”

Jamie Duncan – Chief Performance Officer – Corporate DNA Consulting

“This is a fantastic technology that allows you to feel how you come across, to step into someone else’s shoes and actually be impacted by yourself.”

Jamie Duncan – Chief Performance Officer – Corporate DNA Consulting

Think of it as a flight simulator for soft skills. You get to act out realistic high-risk scenarios that you face in the workplace. Except this time, if you crash, you can just read the tips and try again”

Christophe Mallet – Co-founder – Somewhere Else Solutions

Company Profiles

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else is a London-based innovation agency specialised in immersive technologies.  Rooted at the intersection of human-centred design and storytelling, Somewhere Else helps organisations reimagine training, service design and corporate communications to accelerate business transformation.

Corporate DNA Consulting

Created in 2007, CorporateDNA is a global leadership firm that delivers board alignment, leadership & talent development, high performing teams, women in leadership and coaching across 32 countries and 15 industries.

Author: VR Reporter

I am a hi-tech enthusiast, VR evangelist, and a Co-founder & Chief Director at Virtual Reality Reporter!

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