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Virtual humans are as effective as real humans in helping people acquire new skills.

A virtual human can be as good as a real human when it comes to helping people practice new leadership skills. That's the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Virtual Reality, which evaluated the effectiveness of computer-generated characters in a training scenario, compared to real humans in a conventional setting. Researchers at the University of Canterbury's Human Interface Technology Lab New Zealand were investigating whether computer-generated characters in virtual and mixed reality environments could offer similar levels of effectiveness in overcoming some of the drawbacks of training techniques. traditional. For the study, the researchers designed eight virtual humans, as well as realistic VR environments using software and hardware. They recruited 30 people, divided into three groups, who were to undergo training using a well-known leadership model. In one group, leadership trainees interacted with two humans playing the role of subordinates. The second group interacted with virtual human subordinates in a VR world, while the last group met in a mixed reality environment where participants could see virtual humans in a real office space. Trainees were scored on how well their leadership style matched each situation, based on predefined criteria, before and after receiving coaching. Result: All three groups improved their performance between the pre- and post-training session, while the mixed reality cohort experienced a statistically significant average increase. "The most remarkable finding is that virtual human role-playing games were found to be as effective as real-life human role-playing games in supporting the practice of leadership skills," said Gonzalo Suarez, lead author of the report.

Participants were able to perceive their real body and the characteristics of the physical room where the experiment was conducted while interacting with virtual humans. "On the other hand, the experience provided by the VR scenario was completely new to the participants." One of the benefits is that virtual reality allows learners to practice their skills and knowledge in multiple scenarios that may be too dangerous or expensive to replicate in the real world. The current pandemic is another example of how Virtual Reality technologies could be applied. "Institutions such as schools and universities can greatly benefit from using these technologies," Suarez noted.

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