There is a lot of hype about VR (virtual reality,) because the first thing that comes to mind is gaming and there are many gamers out there waiting for VR to come into a full-blown tool. Even though that is what will drive VR and earn its big bucks, Samsung’s program #BeFearless has opened up other ‘virtues’ of virtual reality. The boundaries of VR are really quite boundless after you begin to look at the other uses of VR and one area Samsung is stressing as part of their #BeFearless campaign is as a means to get over your fear of public speaking. The aim of the campaign, created in 2013, is to use technology to help people fulfill their dreams and to live life to its fullest.
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The #BeFearless program for the Samsung Gear VR tackled people’s fear of public speaking by creating a virtual reality setting where the participant is looking at a room full of people waiting to hear them speak. The volunteers took part in a four-week, systematic virtual reality coaching program to get them over their fears of public speaking. There were three public scenarios – a school setting that required a presentation and then discussion period. Next, an office setting that included job interviews, a business meeting and a conference setting, and finally social situations such as giving a wedding toast and an awards speech. There were four levels of difficulty within each scenario that one had to be ‘passed’ in order to move forward. Participants were encouraged to repeat scenarios until they were comfortable.
The test used scientific and medically monitored criteria, such as changes in heart rate that were measured using Samsung’s own Gear S smartwatch, the amount of eye contact and self-assessed anxiety checks. One of the participants is a fashion designer that needed to be able to confidently speak about her new designs. Another volunteer wanted to become a teacher but was afraid to speak in front of people. A third participant needed to do presentations for graduate school and a fourth just wanted to gain more confidence when speaking in front of people. After going through the four-week program all of them felt better prepared to speak in front of the public. The success of the #BeFearless program is supported by research done by doctors at the Yonsei University’s Gangnam Severance Hospital in South Korea. The doctors used the VR training program with 82 subjects and calculated a 90-percent reduction in their fear of public speaking. This first in a series of the #BeFearless programs shows that the use of virtual reality can be used for more than simply the gaming genre, but for educational and real-life situations. We are only beginning to tap virtual reality’s usefulness and the ways we can use it to help people fulfill their dreams.