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Virtual Reality in Human Services: Boosting Confidence in Making Tough Decisions

Valerie Armbrust

Managing Director, North America Child Services, Accenture

It’s 2:47 p.m. The phone rings.

“Child Protective Services, how can I help you?”

“Yeah, I’m concerned about my daughter. She lives with my ex and I’m telling you, it’s not safe. Her boyfriend is a heroin addict and that place … it’s filthy. There’s never any food and they leave my daughter home alone. It’s not right.”

Fast forward. You’re the caseworker standing at the doorstep of the family’s home, heart pounding. You know things aren’t always what they seem. But you’re here to make an assessment. You will need to ask yourself if this home is safe for the children who live here?

Introducing AVEnueS

In the field of human services, it is widely understood that it can take years for front line workers to build a deep bank of experience and confidence from which to draw in making the tough decisions they are faced with every day – decisions that can have a profound impact on the safety and well-being of children and families. For years, I’ve discussed the possibilities and benefits of using virtual reality (VR) technology to accelerate the pace of learning in human services. Now I’m excited to report that Accenture has brought this technology to life for Human Services.

The Accenture Virtual Experience Solution, known as AVEnueS, is a platform that enables virtual immersive experiences. The first scenario of AVEnueS is a child safety assessment and begins with a hotline call much like the one described above. Users find themselves face-to-face with the reported family in this voice-controlled, 360-degree video experience that mimics reality. Giving users the chance to look around the family’s home and speak and interact directly with each individual living in the home.

No right answers – just experiences

AVEnueS is intentionally not game-like. Once a scenario is initiated, the experience is entirely voice-controlled. Using real-life actors (no computer-generated characters or scenery), AVEnueS authentically recreates a home environment and provides an opportunity for field workers to practice and build skills in engagement, observation, inquiry and decision making in complex and ambiguous environments. All within a low-risk setting. There are no correct choices. Just like in real life, users make decisions to the best of their ability based on what they can see, hear and interpret from the behaviors of the people around them.

Users learn by doing and saying in AVEnueS. This approach is known as active learning and causes motivation, engagement and learning retention to sky rocket when compared to traditional passive learning approaches. In fact, people remember up to 90% of what they say and do, compared to only 30% of what they read, hear or see. In this first scenario of AVEnueS, during the course of the interview with members of the family, users encounter 34 points of inquiry and at each point, questions from which to select. Because different types of questions elicit different emotional responses and information, these options educate the user on effective ways to capture accurate, relevant information. With a total of 16 quadrillion potential pathways through this experience, no two users will have the same experience.

Technology with impact

AVEnueS is not just a “cool” technology. It is offered as a VR-enabled learning service that gives users a chance to experience, reflect and examine their choices. Our research shows that experiential learning – the kind of learning we can do in VR – increases learning quality and retention by more than 75%.

Our goal is to innovate with purpose – to create technology solutions that increase the likelihood of delivering better outcomes for children and families. AVEnueS offers the impact of helping human service workers better prepare for the reality of a complicated world. The possibilities are endless!

Learn more about AVEnueS please visit us here

Valerie Armbrust

Managing Director, North America Child Services, Accenture