VR Training to Tackle Prejudice in Sport

VR Training to Tackle Prejudice in Sport

The USA’s National Football League (NFL) is planning to use virtual reality to deliver vital “diversity training” to combat issues such as racism and sexism.

The NFL’s players and various employees will be using an experience created by world-leading experts at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. In it, the user finds themselves “playing” the role of an African-American woman, who is being harassed by a white man.

This will be an incredibly powerful experience for anyone who hasn’t been in the position to experience this kind of harassment or bias. Seeing things from the perspective of the victim--and feeling a sense of empathy--is far more effective than sitting and listening to a diversity trainer simply talk about such situations. “Feeling prejudice by walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is what VR was made for," says Jeremy Bailenson, director of the lab.

The NFL had originally engaged the lab to create training scenarios for its players, before realising that diversity training would be a powerful training offer for its employees, because the League continues to struggle with the equal representation of women and minorities in top positions.

The Virtual Human Interaction Lab is working on a number of other empathy-building virtual experiences, including putting the user in the shoes of a homeless person. They are keen to "teach empathy toward those with disabilities, with different skin colour and different economic goals” to help tackle prejudice, bullying and classroom learning.

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