Integrating Mixed Reality Simulation (MRS) into Training

09 May 2019

During a session at ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference, I had the pleasure of hearing Tracy Todd, PhD, CEO of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), talk about how his association is integrating Mixed Reality Simulation (MRS) into their training efforts to gain greater effectiveness.

Tracy explained that simulation is not new and has been used for many years to train pilots, military, and police. He even shared that if you ever played the game of “Operation” you were simulating an operation. Some view simulation as a game and don’t take the opportunities of how to use simulation in business seriously.

The AAMFT introduced situational simulation to enhance their training offerings for new therapists. Tracy explained the challenges that exist with current training formats:

  • Peer-to-Peer Role Play – is not genuine and is hard to hold the interest of students not engaged in the exercise
  • Actor Role Play – is too expensive
  • Real Clients – focus of the trainer shifts to the client over the training of the new therapist

Hence, AAMFT proposed building an MRS program. Tracy explained that MRS is not artificial intelligence or a software program. MRS is a customizable training experience.

The MRS that AAMFT developed required lots of frontend work to develop scenarios for the trainee and actor to experience. It was important to train the actors and the instructors on how to use the MRS. Webinars were developed and delivered in advanced of the sessions.

Elements of the program included:

  • A partnership with a company who has relationships with the Improv Actors who control the avatars involved in the training exercises. This was defined as the actors needed to learn how to use the puppeteer software (Mursion)
  • Virtual Reality Computer Animation software that controls the digital avatars
  • Video conferencing platform – AAMFT used Zoom to deliver the sessions

Advantages of Simulation:

  • More engaging style
  • Doing simulations allows training to occur without fear of mistakes
  • This shifts the experience to focus on the learning
  • The theme of play and learning was identified

Disadvantages of Simulation:

  • Cost – (AAMFT spent about $25,000 on an annual license for unlimited sessions)
  • Identifying the actors who do improv well
  • Scheduling the actor in Los Angeles – (cost about $150 - $200/hour)

Summary: While Mixed Reality Simulation (MRS) may not be ready for prime-time in most associations, I think that there would be a great advantage for this type of training in many of AH’s current association client partners.

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