Brownsburg students using virtual reality to conquer fear of public speaking

BROWNSBURG, Ind. – In reality, public speaking can be a scary task, but in virtual reality, public speaking is no problem.

“When I looked at it, virtual reality is where the answer was,” said speech teacher Mark Arnold.

Arnold was looking for a way to help his students get over their fear of speaking in public. He found a way to use the technology they love, to improve the speech skills they need.

"You should've seen it when they first tried it out," Arnold said. "They were just in awe."

The goggles use audio recording and eye tracking to score students on words per minute, eye contact, and other speech skills, relaying that feedback in real time

Using his goggles, senior Justin Cherry pitched a new product to a group of investors, a scenario he struggled with in the past.

“When our first projects came out it was very rough," laughed Cherry. "A lot of filler words, a lot of shaking, common things you normally get when you’re afraid.”

The virtual reality presentation is allowing Cherry to have the real experience, without the fear.

“The cool thing about this is they move around or you can turn on distractions," Cherry said of the virtual room. "So it makes like phone buzzes or coughs or things you would normally hear in an actual setting."

Sophomore Gavin Pierson also gave a product pitch. While the idea of public speaking is new to him, the use of technology is quite familiar.

“There's a good amount of people in our class that are nervous," Pierson said. "But they get around it with the VR.”

So far, Arnold has noticed major improvements with his students’ speech. He says the use of this technology won’t stop with speech, and will soon move to other subjects.

"It’s endless, and the sky's the limit,” Arnold said.

The school currently has 24 virtual reality goggles that were purchased with the help of a grant. Speech class is required for graduation in Brownsburg, so all students will get a chance to use the new technology.

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