C-Live, our VR training platform is operated live in real time with the avatars responding according to the performance of the participant in their training session.

I interviewed Natalie Preece, one of C-Live’s Simulation Specialists to find out more about what her job entails and what it takes to work as a Simulation Specialist at Connect.

VR Training - Image shows Natalie Preece, one of Connect's Simulation Specialists

What exactly is C-Live?

C-Live is a vr training tool for those embarking on their careers or professionals looking to continue their personal professional development. Participants access the technology online and interact with avatars in real time; nothing is pre-programmed and everything is live as the avatars are operated by highly trained actors. We have simulations that meet the training needs of various sectors such as education, hospitality, leisure and tourism, management and leadership training and medical. With a little bit of imagination, the possibilities are endless.

What is a simulation specialist?

A simulation specialist is the actor behind the scenes operating the avatars; we are essentially electronic puppeteers. Simulation specialists have to be adept in improvisation and replicating and maintaining vocal profiles in order to portray such a wide array of characters.

How would you recommend C-Live should be used to get the best results?

With confidence, commitment and over several sessions. Simulations work best when participants allow themselves to be immersed in the experience; that’s when the learning really takes place. Multiple sessions allow the participants to review their simulations and identify key areas of improvement and fully utilise the product.

How did you end up in this role?

As a jobbing actor I have performed in a variety of roles, many of which have been based in education. I have toured the UK with theatre in education; helping support schools delivering a variety of performances and workshops on road safety, safety in the home and anti-bullying (to name a few). In-between acting jobs I have worked as a drama teacher and a cover supervisor; so when this role came up, it seemed like the perfect way for me to bring all my skills together to help benefit others.

VR training. Image shows adult avatar

What was your training like for the job?

Intense. C-Live is the only product of its kind, so I had no experience of using the technology. If you can imagine tapping your head, whilst rubbing your stomach, hopping on one leg whilst reciting the alphabet in a foreign language backwards, then you’ll get a good idea of our first ten days of training.  

What equipment do you use? Is it tricky?

We use specialised equipment at our end in order to make the avatars as life-like as possible. We wear motion sensors on our heads to track the head movement, voice morphing software and an X-box controller. It’s very easy for the participant to use, as long as you have a PC or laptop with a webcam and microphone; you just need to enter a web address at the pre-agreed time and date and you are ready to begin your simulation.

What advice would you give teachers who are dealing with a challenging classroom situation?

I would say that every scenario is different because no two people are the same. The best advice I could give is to figure out what strategies work for you. The best way to learn is by doing and that’s what makes C-Live so good. It gives participants the safe space to identify their strengths and weaknesses and find out what strategies work best for them. From my experience, in situations such as these, if you remain calm and genuinely listen to the other party you are much more likely to reach an agreeable resolution for all involved.

I believe there are now some new avatars, can you tell us a bit more about that?

We now have fourteen new adult avatars and twelve new young people avatars. We have lots more environments (or backdrops) and the software itself is so much more advanced. The avatars have much more complicated programming, which means that the avatars have a wider variety of facial expressions, making the simulations much more realistic.

What is your proudest moment working at Connect?

It’s difficult to pin point one. I always feel proud when a participant really gets something out of a simulation. I remember during one scenario, one of the quieter avatars, who often gets ignored, revealed that she was upset because her pet had just died. The participant really committed to the scene and was genuinely affected by the avatar’s reaction. There was a great discussion about strategies to use and the simulations that followed were really interesting and beneficial to the participant.

What are the main challenges when it comes to simulating?

The stamina probably, particularly in the education simulations. You have to really listen and focus on the participant and the different vocal profiles put a lot of strain on the voice. That and sticking to the pre-agreed level. Simulations take place at a low, medium or high level and if the participant is doing well, it can be very tempting to up the stakes to give the participant more to work with.  

What is your favourite thing about simulating?

The freedom in the performance. I have always enjoyed improvisation and being live in the moment and C-Live gives me the opportunity to do that.

If you would like to know more about C-Live, our VR training platform email clive@iwanttoconnect.co.uk or book a free demo