One of the most intense interactive storytelling experiences I’ve ever had was the Accenture AVEnueS training application for child welfare caseworkers.
I was tasked with assessing whether or not I should remove a child from her parents as a representative for Child Protective Services, and so I was interrogating the parents through a series of prompts with different types of questions. I had to match the style of question with the temperament of the parent, and try to resolve contradictory stories and incomplete information.
At the end, I had to make a choice deliver the news to the parent. I opted to see how intense it would be to have to tell a mother I was going to take her child away and the resulting heart-wrenching pleading that followed was almost too much to bear. I learned that I’m probably not really cut out to be a child welfare caseworker.
It’s this exact type of screening and soft skills training that Accenture sees is a perfect fit for virtual reality. They collaborated with Courtney Harding’s Friends with Holograms in order to create a fusion of 2D billboarded video in 360-degree photospheres with a light branching narrative based upon what type of questions you ask.
I had a chance to catch up with Harding as well as Molly Tierney, the child welfare strategy lead for Accenture, while I was at SXSW. We talked about how they’re using VR to do screening, on-the-job training for a wide variety of human services fields. Tierney praised VR as being an inexpensive, easy to use, and deeply immersive, experiential learning environment for soft skills training.
Another big takeaway is the power of conversational interfaces to create a sense of social presence. I saw this demo on a 3 degree-of-freedom Oculus Go, and it used monoscopic photospheres and billboarded 2D video. All of these are the most minimal ways to get content into an spatial experience, and it was really impressive for immersive and effective it still was.
It looks like Oculus will be phasing out the Oculus Go from Enterprise offerings, and so it these experiences will likely eventually all be fully spatialized with volumetric capture. But as stopgap, the 2D and monoscopic versions are still cheaper, easier to produce, and the immersion benefit probably doesn’t outweigh the additional tech production and post production costs. All of these technologies and production pipelines will take time to get fleshed out, but the good news is that there are so many VR training scenarios that will help to fund a fully spatialized workflow.
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