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Bloomington virtual reality company offers interactive business training



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Kari Costello tests a virtual reality mask at RegattaVR’s open house Oct. 1 in downtown Bloomington. RegattaVR offers virtual reality programs for businesses to train employees to handle difficult situations in the workplace, such as sexual harassment​. Joy Burton

A woman with a virtual reality headset over her eyes moved her hands to pick up a coffee cup only she could see. 

She was one of around 20 people at the Bloomington virtual reality company, Regatta VR, but the only one wearing a headset at the moment. The rest talked to the employees about the company's technology.

Regatta VR invited members of local businesses and organizations to an open house from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday on South Gentry Street to showcase the benefits of its technology in a business setting.

Regatta VR is an e-learning company that uses virtual and augmented reality to teach beneficial skills in an innovative way. 

The open house allowed attendees to experience VR and talk about how they can incorporate it into their companies.

“It’s a chance for people to walk through and get a headset on,” said Regatta VR brand director Jessica Gize. 

The headsets used for the programs are leased by businesses from Regatta VR.

President and Founder Bill West started Regatta VR about a year ago because he saw the potential VR had in revolutionizing e-learning. He has worked in e-learning for around 20 years.

The open house featured several VR programs. One was a program with a conversational focus that dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace.

In the sexual harassment training, the person using the headset played the part of an HR manager whose employee wanted to disclose how a coworker’s words and actions made her uncomfortable.

The headset provided visual and audio of the situation. The trainee used a remote control to point to the dialogue he or she wanted to choose to progress the conversation. 

The sexual harassment program is one of Regatta VR’s major focuses.

West said the company is trying to use VR to help teach empathy that would be beneficial in situations like the sexual harassment program, because it allows a person to see the world from a different perspective. 

“We started with sexual misconduct because it applies to every industry,” West said.

Zoe Peterson, a faculty member at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, attended the open house to learn more about how VR could apply to their research about sexual misconduct.

“In sexual harassment and assault cases, one of the things researchers try to do is promote empathy,” Peterson said.

Peterson said she thought VR was an interesting strategy for training people. 

Along with the sexual misconduct program, the company also provides business-oriented programs such as customer service and negotiation training. 

Another course available at the open house was the 6-degrees-of-freedom activity. This program is more interactive and has options such as training the user to make a cup of coffee by having them do it virtually.

West said he thinks 20% of companies will adopt VR within the next year.

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