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By VR Days Europe, with Faye Maidment, CMO at Facemoji

This year we’ve seen an explosion of Virtual Beings across education, entertainment, enterprise and training verticals. These beings have not only changed the way we do things, but also how we perceive our own realities. Virtual beings have lost the age old stigma of uncultured robots that lack familiarity and sentimentality, and have graduated to 21st century vehicles for human empathy and compassion. Virtual beings dominate our social media channels (Lil Miquela), help us navigate social complexities (Talespin), allow us to make sense of ourselves and our own identity (Facemoji), and blur the boundaries between AI, animation and human (DI4D). With new virtual characters created daily, we explore these beings as our new partners-in-crime, helping us to understand our very real world and our own human condition.

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Play2Speak and PlusOne are on a mission to revolutionize language learning, combining the smarts of virtual reality, AI and virtual beings. With aims to improve the success rate of language learning retention, both companies confront the learners’ pain points: the lack of available practice time with native speakers, coupled with the embarrassment of the practice itself. Virtual reality simulations with virtual beings provide a solution by offering learners a fully immersive practice environment and the conversational time that is sought after, all in the safety of one’s own home or office. Interacting with virtual beings in VR provides the next best thing to experiencing language “pragmatics” (learning based on real world settings) in an immersive and interactive environment.

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Talespin’s vision for the future of work is for us to be better humans with higher emotional intelligence and empathy, coupled with enhanced capabilities to communicate and a greater cultural awareness. To solve for this need Talespin uses VR and AI to deliver leadership and communication training with virtual beings in a simulated environment. Talespin’s aim is to empower the next generation of the workforce to make better decisions based on real experiences. As each training is unique, Talespin works with its clients to create custom scenarios and characters that fit their needs. One organisation might want to test a potential interviewee’s reaction to a consumer’s problem, and another might use the technology to train its staff on workplace safety. Through experiential learning, trainees are exposed to the desired situation within a safe simulation where they are able to practice and improve responses.

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Do Virtual Humans extend to our favorite characters in cinemas and videogames? Cortana, the fictional AI character from the Halo video game series existed on 2D screens long before VR and Holograms were a reality for consumers. Today, facial performance capture companies such as DI4D blur the line between human, animation and AI. You may (or may not!) recognize their work from Blade Runner 2049, Far Cry 5, Love Death & Robots and Deadpool 2 “We’re now able to get super realistic high fidelity facial animation in an engine for virtual reality applications. I think that’s a really exciting feature with a potential to make VR more personal. You can have characters that you can actually emotionally engage with because you can read their emotional state,” said Colin Urquhart, CEO at DI4D.

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Scientific research and entertainment combined are bringing AI and virtual beings closer to being a part of our everyday lives, and setting the stage for the next major movement in VR with virtual assistants. At VR Days Europe, attend the AI and Virtual Human session in the Forum on November 15. In the context of healthcare, training and HR management, discuss when it is desirable and ethical to use virtual humans. To what extent should these be presented as human and who is responsible for the AI? What kind of relationships are we creating and how do real humans deal with them? Hear from our expert speakers that include: Marco DeMiroz, Remmelt Blessinga, Skip Rizzo, Cameron-James Wilson, Matthew Whitmann, Meeri Haataja, Dorothea Baur and Anna Zhilyaeva.

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VR Days is Europe’s biggest Virtual Reality Festival in Amsterdam. Three days of demos, speakers, film, and celebrations. November 13–15, 2019.

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