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Future tech: How VR is helping the next generation pick their future career path

Picking what to study when you finish school is a daunting task for most, with a myriad of options and information at students’ fingertips. But New Zealand agency M Theory has come up with a solution by using VR tech. 'The Future of You’ takes students on an interactive, fortune teller's journey through a series of personality-based questions that will help guide them towards a career path they're well suited for. 

The tech works as follows: A VR video on a Samsung VR headset guides students through an interactive series of questions, based on American psychologist John L Holland’s theory of careers and vocational choice, The Holland Codes.

It does this by weaving in the story of a virtual fortune teller that asks questions to figure out the student’s ‘unique personality’, and was developed using face-mapping technology.

The landscape shifts and changes through sound and visual cues, and at the end of the journey, the fortune teller gives those a description of their personality type in a tarot card format, as well as suggested career paths best suited to this type of personality.

Actual, physical tarot-styled cards are also handed out to participants, showing personality insights, potential career paths and the university courses that might match their results.

The technology was rolled out for the first time at Torrens University open days across Australia. It will also start being shown at schools via Cardboard VR headsets, as well as being available for public download from the Oculus store from October.

This isn’t Method’s first foray into VR for educational purposes, either. In 2015, they debuted a virtual reality experience that was linked with EEG brainwave-mapping technology for Auckland’s Unitec Institute of Technology.

Its aim was to prove that hands-on learning works by teleporting people into an immersive experience, such as a New Zealand forest or a music studio, and then measuring their brainwaves.
 

Check out our Q&A with managing director of M Theory and Method (M Theory is the specialist AR and VR arm of Method agency) Sam Ramlu about the venture.

Idealog: Where did the idea for The Future Of You come from? Did Torrens University approach you, or did you develop this technology on your own initiative?

Ramlu: We initiated the conversation with Torrens through an industry presentation at Media Design School for a visiting Laureate director. They saw and loved the Unitec and WQ Smart work we presented. We held a workshop in Sydney with their executive marketing team where we went through some of the current pain points of recruiting students. The recurring theme was that they needed a unique way to engage with students but it had to go beyond a gimmick. We came back with a couple of ideas and The Future of You was a favourite with the whole group. It was a way to deliver a useful and meaningful engagement with students that could live beyond an activation (making it portable and available for Torrens staff to go through with students at school). We did everything from the ideas through planning, activation strategy, design, and development.

Can you describe what the design process was like? Did you do much user testing with this?

The original thought stemmed from the idea of students visiting a fortune teller to see what their future held - think Zoltar from the movie Big! From here we refined it based on how this might be a useful tool rather than just a fun experience. We thought the idea of a personality profiler would be a great way to show students what career path they might be best suited to. 

Once the high level idea was signed off we sent through details/scamps on each scene as well as potential challenges/questions that would be presented to students to determine their personality, and a rough script. 

We decided to follow the Holland’s personality profiles - where, according to John Holland's theory, most people are one of six personality types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional.

We went through the full list of Torrens courses (quite a few!) and categorised each one based on what personality type they most related to. We then conducted quite a bit of user testing with our internal and Torrens teams as well as a group of friends and family. Initially this was all done on paper - getting people to go through the different scenarios to see how their answers panned out and if it was matching their idea of themselves. 9/10 times it was accurate. To cover the 10 percent, we show two  options at the end of the experience as our “backup” and this seems to be matching up to people’s expectations.

How accurate is the test intended to be? Should a lot of weighting be placed on the results, or is it more of a fun, immersive experience

Both essentially! There is a good amount of weighting in the experience itself and as per above we found most people thought their results were accurate. It’s not as long as a proper personality test so there is a bit of margin for error which we think the 2nd card covers off pretty well. Like any personality test though - it shouldn’t be the final decider on what you want to do - but as a good guide for students who are unsure or who want a bit of guidance it’s a useful tool. It’s a great conversation starter as well - with Torrens advisors as well as peers - it’s had students talking amongst themselves, comparing notes, and going back to see if their results change the 2nd time around. And it is totally a fun and immersive experience at the same time. We’ve had people coming back for more and comparing notes or encouraging others to try it “what did you get?!”


Why is VR a great tool to use for important life decisions, such as helping people decide what career path they should take?

I don’t think this experience should replace the role of advisors and influencers on career choices however, it’s a really focussed, engaging, fun, and memorable way to get students (and others!) to start thinking about their future. It’s a great tool to guide the conversations with advisors (especially Torrens) and gives people a thought starter or even something to evaluate - “is that really what I should do”? It does get harped on about - VR giving you presence, full immersion etc. So we are seeing a lot of gimmicky style experiences. And while there’s nothing wrong with that as a good gimmick can work, VR has so much potential as a great tool for helping people, in all sorts of ways, that more experiences with substance is what’s going to start getting cut through in what’s going to a massively crowded space.