Like a lot of shy introverts, the mere thought of having to speak in public makes my palms go clammy and my knees all wobbly.
But Bloomberg thinks that virtual reality could be the answer.
At today’s Bloomberg Technology Conference, the company showed off an early demo of a public speaking simulator for Facebook’s Oculus Rift virtual reality headset — and the company claims it could be the cure to people’s fear of public speaking.
It’s currently unknown whether or not Bloomberg will ever release this simulator as a product to its business customers, but apparently it’s already at use internally — I’m told that Bloomberg’s Jeff Marshall, a Fixed Income Analyst, apparently used the simulator to prepare for his on-stage presentation of the simulator itself at the conference today.
I got to try it myself, and found it to be a great example of how virtual reality can be put to work in the office.
This virtual reality experience places you at a dais in front of a moderately interested crowd inside a conference room, while you hold a computer mouse in the real world that you can use to advance the slide deck you’re about to discuss. If you look around while wearing the Oculus Rift, you can see big-screen TVs next to you showing off the slides. It’s enough to make you sweat, if that’s a button-pusher for you.
Click the middle mouse wheel, and cue cards hover all around your immediate field of vision. A timer projected on the virtual wall makes sure you don’t go over time.
But the part that makes it super helpful is a meter that tracks which side of the room you’re paying more attention to — assuming you’re looking into the crowd and not down at your slide deck. It’s good to break some bad speaking habits, and this virtual reality experience helps point those potential issues out, before your actual presentation.
In future versions, a Bloomberg employee tells me that there will be algorithms for detecting when you’re paying more attention to a specific person than others, at the cost of your performance. There may also be a voice recognition feature added down the road, so that it can tell you when you’re saying “like,” “um,” or “you know” in your presentation too much.
Bloomberg’s public speaking virtual reality experience may or may not see a public release, but it’s a good example of how virtual reality can do so much more than just games.
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