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Virtual Reality May Be Cure To Fear Of Public Speaking
July 5, 2018

Dr. Theodora Chaspari, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University is working with Dr. Amir Behzadan, associate professor in the Department of Construction Science, to improve students’ public speaking skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations by utilizing virtual reality (VR) technology. The team was recently awarded a grant from the Engineering Information Foundation for this project, whose mission is to “improve worldwide engineering education and practice through information technology and the recruitment of women.”

Credit: Texas A&M Engineering

“In particular, the goal of this project is to create more opportunities for students to present in a public setting for varying audiences that go beyond their comfort zone while teaching them how to be effective and concise in their speech and to manage their anxiety,” Dr. Chaspari said. “This study will examine how new wearable devices and VR can be integrated to provide low-cost personalized public speaking interventions.”

“In this project we are using a VR interface that simulates a public speaking environment, allowing us to manipulate several attributes of the virtual audience, such as attentiveness, engagement and perceived positivity or negativity,” Dr. Behzadan said. “We are further including experiments with various types of audiences, presentation settings or social settings. Participants have access to the VR application on their smartphones and can interact with the scene by wearing a VR headset.”

According to information, the majority of existing studies were conducted in laboratory settings with limited real-world implementations. With no follow up results in the direction of wearables, it still remains unclear whether consistent practice of real-time feedback can help promote an individual’s public speaking skills over time.

“Motivated by these and similar findings, we are working on a transformative pedagogical project that benefits from smartphone devices and wearable technology owned and operated by many millennials and college students thus making the outcome ubiquitous, cost-effective, replicable and scalable,” Dr. Chaspari said. “We deploy low-cost consumer-grade smartwatches, smartphones and VR headsets to investigate in-the-moment public speaking interventions within a virtual learning environment and their potential benefits compared to interventions administered in a traditional learning environment.”

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