U. Hawaii opens VR lab for public speaking to wider audience

Virtual reality is helping students, faculty and staff prep for public speaking engagements without the pressure of a real audience.
Young woman in a virtual reality meeting in the office
(FG Trade / Getty Images)

A new virtual reality lab at the University of Hawaii at Manoa is helping students, faculty and staff practice their public speaking skills. 

The university opened the VR lab last fall semester using funds from a National Science Foundation grant. The lab was designed to help researchers to work on their science communication skills. Now, VR-based public speaking training is available to anyone who requests an appointment, the university announced Monday.

Lab users can receive a quick primer from a student research assistant on how to use the technology before selecting open or guided prompts for their speeches. They can also select the type of audience environment, which ranges from polite to hostile. The system offers immediate feedback on elements of public speaking, such as hand gestures and eye contact. 

“It’s very valuable,” Jay Stout, a UH Manoa communicology lecturer, said in a press release. “Often what we see in public speaking is that a lot of students suffer from anxiety so having an opportunity for them to practice and go through the motions of speech without a live audience just yet, is really beneficial for them.” 


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