Last week, STRIVR co-founder Jeremy Bailenson released his latest book, Experience on Demand, taking an in-depth look at virtual reality (VR) and how it can be harnessed to improve our everyday lives. In his work, Bailenson draws on two decades spent researching the psychological effects of VR in his lab (he is a founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab), offering expert guidelines for interacting with the medium and describing the profound ways this technology can be used to hone performance training, improve our learning and communication abilities, and enhance our empathetic capacities. The book is now available online and in stores.
If you want to learn specifically why virtual reality is such a game-changer for learning, read this free report.
In Experience on Demand’s early chapters, Bailenson recounts STRIVR’s beginnings– describing it as “a perfect storm of technological advancements, economic forces, and bold actions.” He recalls getting reacquainted with his former student, Derek Belch (our co-founder and CEO) and seeing an opportunity to “combine his [Belch’s] passion for sports with the entrepreneurial VR fever that was sweeping Silicon Valley.” He goes on to highlight the immediate impact STRIVR made with the Stanford Football team (STRIVR’s initial testing ground), highlighting that after VR, [the starting quarterback] passing completion numbers went from 64% to 76% and the team’s total offense improved from 24 points per game to 38 points per game during this same period.
The immediate success of STRIVR training is not a surprise given Bailenson’s prior research. Throughout his work, Bailenson has explored VR as a training tool with very encouraging results; in fact, his work over the years continues to validate VR’s potential to improve performance and its superiority to other digital mediums. One notable example is the results of a study he conducted involving tai chi.
In 2005, Bailenson and his team decided to research the potential to learn physical movements in VR using tai chi as the test (tai chi included the complicated, physical movements necessary, but the movements were slow enough that the tracking technology of the time could successfully capture them). In order to conduct the study, Bailenson and his team split the participants into two groups, each group learning three of the same tai chi moves from an instructor. In one condition, the group watched an instructor demonstrate the moves via 2D video. The other group watched the same moves via a 3D virtual instructor in a VR environment. After the lessons were complete, the participants were asked to perform the three moves from memory and researchers graded them based on their accuracy. Even with the limited capabilities of 2005 VR technology, the findings showed that the group in the VR condition performed with 25% greater accuracy than the 2D video group. Bailenson recalls this study showed “great promise for virtual instruction in fields like choreography, work training, and physical therapy, among others, and convinced me that improvements in the technology would one day lead to VR training simulations that could tutor users in complicated athletic movements, providing feedback and interaction instruction.” This research and the subsequent research that followed has largely laid the groundwork for STRIVR’s training platform.
As Bailenson notes throughout his book, the potential for VR’s positive applications are not just limited to athletics. VR can be applied to a multitude of verticals and fields—from medicine to law enforcement and almost everything in between. In fact, Bailenson encourages readers to utilize VR for any scenarios that are dangerous, expensive, impossible, rare or counterproductive in the real world. The possible scenarios that could be better trained in VR are seemingly endless. Bailenson suggests a few untapped opportunities, such as riot training for law enforcement and even physical therapy applications.
Every day at STRIVR we are working to make practice perfect and empower people to be their very best. By using immersive training, we hope to open up real opportunities to millions whose talents are currently untapped. And it’s really exciting for us to have our very own co-founder continue to scientifically validate VR’s potential to improve learning.
Prior to releasing Experience on Demand,Bailenson co-authored Infinite Reality, establishing himself as a pioneering authority in exploring the profound potential of emerging technologies—namely VR—and the impact such technologies can have on we humans learn, socialize, and interact. Notably, Infinite Realitywas quoted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association, outlining the potentially dangerous effects of immersive media. Bailenson has also published over 100 academic papers, in interdisciplinary journals such as Science, as well as domain-specific journals in the fields of communication, computer science, education, environmental science, law, marketing, medicine, political science, and psychology. In addition to his role at STRIVR, operating and conducting research in his lab, and teaching at Stanford University, Bailenson consults pro bono on VR policy for government agencies including the State Department, the US Senate, the California Supreme Court, the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, among several others.