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Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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Overcome your fear of public speaking in VR

speech-center-vr-cerevrum copy
Overcome your fear of public speaking in VR

Approximately 75 percent of people in the United States suffer from a phobia of public speaking, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That’s a lot of people. That’s me. And that’s probably you too (or at least most people you know). As someone who suffers from social anxiety, with a public speaking phobia thrown in for fun, the idea of speaking in front of a group of people is enough to make my stomach turn. Luckily, VR education company Cerevrum is working to help, introducing the new VR program Speech Center VR.

Speech Center VR wants to help people overcome their public speaking fears

“VR has the unique ability to closely replicate uncomfortable scenarios,” explained Cerevrum CEO Natasha Floksy to VRScout. “So the more students and professionals practice with Speech Center VR, the more comfortable they become with those scenarios.” Speech Center VR wants to help its users overcome their fears of public speaking (from interviews, sale pitches, press conferences, to anything else that keeps you up at night). There are two particular versions of the app: one is for individuals simply trying to improve their speaking and communication skills, the other is corporations seeking to teach employees and improve their internal communications.

Speech Center VR can also be a meditation tool of sorts. Within it are 20 animated environments that the player (complete with a customizable avatar) can rest in. You can use the rooms to practice speeches, host meetings with pals, work on one of the tool’s group projects, or just relax and reflect on how your actual speech went. Did it go well? How can you improve? Speech Center VR wants you to ask those questions, and help improve.

Yes! You can practice that dreaded wedding toast in VR.
Yes! You can practice that dreaded wedding toast in VR.

In my personal experiences, the first time I was struck with the prospect of public speaking was in the early days of school (as most people’s experience, I would presume). I had to present a project of sorts for a class and, of course, it went terribly. If Cerevrum can replicate that scenario, I can see how practicing a speech over and over again could be more beneficial than stressing out over flash cards. Speech Center VR even boasts that you can practice alongside live participants to receive real-time feedback. Even if the app is full of animated little faces instead of ever-judging human eyes piercing through my skull, this could still prove a useful tool. Hell, maybe in the real world I can just pretend everyone’s animated. Problem solved. (Well, if only it were that easy.)

You can finally conquer your greatest fear, because Speech Center VR is available now for free on Samsung Gear VR. The first free course available in the app is “The Art of Public Speaking,” presented by speaking coach Sean Michael Thomas.

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