Image: UH Mānoa

Students, faculty, and staff at the University of Hawai’i Mānoa (UH Mānoa) have a new tool to help improve their public speaking skills.

The school has installed an interactive state-of-the-art VR lab and incorporated it as a tool in the Communicology Program.

The Program’s Center for Communicating Scientific Information manages the lab, which UH Mānoa received through National Science Foundation extramural funding.

UH Mānoa says public speaking is an important life skill, and the lab aims to help students develop their competency.

The Program also focuses on helping researchers communicate technical information better so people can understand and use it.

UH Mānoa Communicology graduate & lecturer Kyle Perkins says everyone has speech quirks that can be strengths or weaknesses.

“This VR system helps these students be able to identify both strengths and weaknesses,” says Perkins. “So, for example, some students might struggle with moving their hands. This VR system demonstrates how you need to move your hands more.”

VR Interactivity to Improve Public Speaking

Users begin by donning the VR headset, selecting a setting, and choosing an audience environment, from polite to hostile.

The software provides post-speech feedback, critiquing pacing, vocal inflections, eye contact, and other areas needing improvement.

UH Mānoa says project leaders report overwhelmingly positive feedback on the new VR speech lab.

Currently only the UH community may access the lab, though project leaders would like to open it to the public.

The school says the lab is a potential resource for K-12 students and public speaking activities like state legislature testimony or commemorating a loved one.

“It’s very valuable,” UH Mānoa Communicology Lecturer Jay Stout told UH News. “Often what we see in public speaking is that a lot of students suffer from anxiety, so having an opportunity to practice and go through the motions of a speech without a live audience just yes is really beneficial for them. Additionally, a lot of the feedback they get is really beneficial in terms of improving and enhancing their delivery for presentations.”

UH Mānoa hopes to expand the lab into several rooms with multiple VR headsets and separate consulting rooms for coaching.

Image: UH Mānoa

By Benjie Cooper

Raised on geek culture, Benjie has been in cannabis news since 2014, and a consumer since long before that. Before starting CannaGeek, he wrote for the Candid Chronicle and co-hosted the Nug Life Radio Show.

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