Can VR headsets work in presentation skills training? If so, how?
February 9, 2017 11:04 PM   Subscribe

Boss has an idea that VR headsets / GoPro cameras / other relatively modern technology could be used to improve our currently low-tech presentation courses. Unfortunately, I know little about these things. I guess participants could watch their own presentations in 3D (or something) and that doing so VR might be interesting.

It seems like this money needs to be spent in the next couple of months, so I’m turning to the hive mind for advice. One caveat is that we can’t ask participants to use their own phones for this.

If you had (say) $2,500 dollars to spend on tech to do something with a small group (3-4 people), and it at least appeared to relate to providing feedback on speeches, presentations, etc, how would you spend the money?
posted by Prof Iterole to Education (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you give a bit more info about the usual format and content of your offerings, and how the users typically interact with them?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:08 PM on February 9, 2017

Participants are adults with strong spoken English, but maybe not the best writers. English is often their 2nd or 3rd language. Over 3-4 days they study basics like developing a script, how to practice without relying too heavily on memorization, etc. Many of the ideas were adapted from Graham Davies’ book “The presentation coach”.

They pick the topic(s) they present on, and present at least once a day. In theory, they integrate the things they’ve just been learning into their next presentation.

Ordinary video cameras are used to record the presentations they make (they use posters, not powerpoint) and they watch the recordings on laptops with other participants & instructional staff. As with the content, watching the presentations is supposed to lead to them improving their next version.
posted by Prof Iterole at 11:25 PM on February 9, 2017

I am not really up on the capabilities of VR these days. I get the sense that it is still mostly goggles-based.

If you wanted to use virtual reality in a presentation skills class, I guess you could use it to simulate having an audience in the room they'd be presenting in. So as they stroll around an imaginary auditorium stage, someone in the first row rubs their nose, someone is sneaking in late in back...

You could throw some money at room mics and headphones so the speaker could hear the same type of reverb as they would if they were actually in such a room, e.g. wood-paneled boardroom vs. auditorium vs. acoustic-tiled office conference room.

For a significantly lower tech way to spend money: You could buy a few mics / headsets as props, just so that the students get really comfortable having to put those on quickly, and speaking into the mic. Speaking into a mic is a taught skill -- some people have to speak less loudly; some people have to hold it closer to their mouth than they think, etc.
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:49 AM on February 10, 2017

Anybody with prescription glasses and/or a whole host of other vision divergences will be unable to participate if things are dependent on anything with a headset or goggles. Even things that have been able to fit over my glasses still give me a righteous migraine. Please ask your boss to consider the various physical abilities people will be working (or not working) with.
posted by Mizu at 2:02 AM on February 10, 2017 [6 favorites]

My job involves some element of VR content specification and management and for this use case I would say, no to headsets, not right now. The headsets are only viewing devices, you would need to also develop the environment your participants would be viewing. I'm not aware of any apps that currently provide the kind of content you're describing and the cost of creating such would go way beyond your budget.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:55 AM on February 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I can't see a killer app for VR in this.

Agreed on mics (possibly headsets) being a tool that presenters need to learn to use. Another is PowerPoint or KeyNote or similar presentation tools, for which you need at minimum a computer, a large display, and some way to connect the two. $2,500 would be a decent budget for that.

You mentioned that they don't use PowerPoint currently - there may be a philosophical reason for that (not relying too heavily on such presentations), in which case, nevermind. But for better or worse, this is a tool that most commercial presentations make use of.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:14 AM on February 10, 2017

I don't see people make presentations with posters. Either they have PowerPoint or they have nothing at all.

VR would do nothing that a camera couldn't do better. Their phones would be better still- they likely already know how to use those.

Learning how to make PowerPoint slides would be a way better use of time than fiddling with a VR headset.

I would get four cheap laptops and walk them through how to make slides.
posted by Monday at 5:33 AM on February 10, 2017

This project (research paper) proposes one way to use VR and virtual characters to give feedback for presentation skill building, but it's a research prototype, not a thing you can buy off-the-shelf for <$2.5k.
posted by Alterscape at 7:21 AM on February 10, 2017

VR is definitely not the way to go with this - it doesn't work for some people, gives others headaches, and makes others want to throw up.

Is there a a reason why they're presenting from posters rather than a computer? Unless this is for something like students giving poster presentations at scientific symposiums where posters still are commonly used, I'd say you're better off refocusing on how to give good presentations with Powerpoint etc.
posted by Candleman at 8:04 AM on February 10, 2017

A sophisticated VR system might be able to help people review presentations to look for gestures, movement, etc., and to feel more immersed in the experience, but you are not going to be able set the whole thing up for $2500. How about just some good cameras and microphones?
posted by demiurge at 8:46 AM on February 10, 2017

If you think about the talking head world of TV, they have tried some fancy technology that you might suggest instead, such as the big touch screens popular at election time. I think it would be eye_opening to see what the set up costs in time and manpower. They are good at allowing the user/speaker to drill down from the big picture to the detail.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:59 AM on February 10, 2017

Thanks to everyone who commented so far. I hadn't expected issues such as eyeglasses or headaches.

To clarify about posters versus powerpoint, I guess the idea has been that the institution already offers a lot of powerpoint related classes, and posters a) offer a level playing field (powerpoint wizards can't use their prowess to make up for areas of weakness) and b) posters tend to encourage interaction in comparison to powerpoint presentations.

As far as I know, the idea of adding a headset component is (as freya-lamb mentioned) just as a viewing device - seeing one's own presentation in a new way might make things more interesting. I don't think the idea has been fully thought out - it seems like there's this money available on a "use it or lose it" basis.

Valuable food for thought from everyone already, but if you have more ideas, please add them. Many thanks!
posted by Prof Iterole at 3:07 PM on February 10, 2017

If you used a go pro to film audience reaction at the same time as filming the presenter, that could be interesting for feedback purposes as you could view both videos side by side and see what was interesting, boring, etc. I can't see value in vr apart from maybe as some kind of warm up exercise to get people moving about
posted by KateViolet at 7:57 PM on February 10, 2017

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