In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two! That means that, to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral you’d rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
Public speaking terrifies most of us and this fear can spill over into our personal, social and professional lives as well. Today, a new virtual reality experience is being announced that is attempting to waylay these collective fears, while providing the tools and education required for us to become more confident in speaking situations. The name is Speech Center VR and it represents a moment of maturation for a fledgeling industry.
Speech Center VR was officially launched this morning by the company that created it: Cerevrum. This organization describes itself as, “a pioneer in the burgeoning field of virtual reality (VR) education and training.”
According to an official release accompanying this morning’s launch, Cerevrum is positioning Speech Center VR as an “education platform that delivers new methods for improving public speaking and communication skills in personal and business scenarios.” It further explains that the app was created to “help users overcome public speaking phobias, and to help employees prepare more effectively for sales pitches, negotiations, press conferences, job interviews and more.”
Speech Center VR accomplishes these goals by allowing you to create a custom avatar and place yourself in a variety of realistically rendered immersive speaking scenarios. For example, you could be in a board room full of sharp-eyed executives waiting to hear your pitch for the overseas accounts, or you could be in a crowded lecture hall delivering a detailed sermon on biology in preparation for an early morning class.
Cerevrum believes that VR’s uniquely immersive capabilities will enable Speech Center users to achieve a much higher comfort level with their material than they could by simply running through a stack of notecards. According to Cerevrum’s COO and spokesperson, Olga Peshé, “VR’s ability to immerse a user into a given subject, to command their full concentration, and to bring other users into that same space, helps stimulate comprehension, engagement and retention of information, whether that’s in a classroom setting or the corporate world.”
I had the chance to try Speech Center VR myself during a private demo and the app certainly offers enough features and mechanics to dramatically sharpen one’s rhetorical abilities. There are a 10 different environments to try, helpful lesson plans you can go through to learn about speech theory and construction, and useful tools to make your talks all the more efficient.
These tools include importable slideshows or decks, useful note interfaces to keep you on message, and playback functionality that allows you to re-watch your practice sessions and improve your overall form. There is also the option to perform your presentation to actual people live over the Internet and receive real-time feedback on your performance.
The current VR ecosystem plays host to a rather one-sided marketplace that is slowly beginning to expand. VR, while powerful enough to do almost anything, is mostly used for gaming and entertainment at this early point in its life cycle. This makes an experience like Speech Center VR — a consumer facing, business/education oriented application — highly significant as a point of possible transition in the industry’s content library.
According to Cerevrum, “There are two versions of Speech Center VR – one for individual consumers who wish to improve their speaking and communication skills.” The other is a corporate edition with an expanded feature set.
Both of these versions are available today. The former can be downloaded for free onto the Samsung Gear VR, and the latter can be obtained by contacting the company directly.