Huib Kouwenhoven got his PhD in Communication and Information Sciences from the Radboud University Nijmegen in 2016. At the time, he was already working as a Business Consultant for a supply chain optimization software company.
Huib joined The Simulation Crew early 2018 and became the crew’s Communications Consultant. He is working on external communication activities and sales projects. Also, he is involved in project delivery, both in content creation – mainly dialogue writing –, and in project management.
The Virtual Client: practicing social skills in health care
Social skills are becoming increasingly important for health professionals. Personalized health care requires real attention for the client. Shared decision making asks for well-developed communication skills. Such skills need practice. However, the time and occasions for practice are often limited in real health care situations with actual clients. This is why simulation games in virtual reality can provide a valuable alternative.
We present The Virtual Client: a (game) concept that revolves around social skills training with realistic human-like avatars. The Virtual Client has her own personality traits and shows real emotions and emotional states based on this personality. The behavior is fully driven by artificial intelligence. The player’s input is continuously evaluated by the artificial intelligence system to ensure that The Virtual Client reacts appropriately to the player’s actions. Players can practice many social skills, like making (eye-)contact, noticing dissonance between verbal and non-verbal behavior, or adapting language use to the client’s mental capacities.
We have already made big steps developing The Virtual Client. We can talk to her using real-time speech recognition. She shows emotions, like nervousness when you stare at her, and sends convincing non-verbal signals. The next step is to further develop The Virtual Client, together with one or more health care organizations. They will be the health experts, and will provide the most important skills that need to be trained, as well as the content for making convincing cases. The Simulation Crew will implement the content in an educational simulation to help improve future health care.