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Here's how this growing DC company is putting you in other people’s shoes through virtual reality

Modules through a VR headset can walk users through diversity and inclusion, sexual harassment, workplace bullying, and unconscious bias scenarios.

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — Imagine transporting yourself into any imaginable scenario -- like police response training as a female officer, to company meetings as a person of color, or anything else people struggle with.

Well, a company in Washington D.C. – Equal Reality – is working to change the way we empathize and understand our friends and co-workers by shifting your perspective from the real world to the virtual world.

“I had some experiences that were not pretty fun for me in terms of bullying,” Equal Reality co-founder Rick Martin said.

“I'd always been someone who cared about inclusion, and I went to a lot of companies that claim to do a lot around diversity and inclusion, but yet in the learning and development space all I ever saw was tick-box exercises.”

The redundancy in that experience motivated Martin and his co-founder Brennan Hatton to answer the question – how can you walk in someone else’s shoes?

First, it took a realization that the old way of sitting in meetings and answering questions on a test wasn’t really working.

“The big claim was, ‘we really care about these topics that are really important,’ which they are, but yet, there was little impact in any sort of learning or awareness around this,” Martin said.

Credit: Gio Insignares
Equal Reality's training modules can literally put you into someone else's shoes.

Cue virtual reality as a diversity and inclusion training tool. Modules created by the team walk people through scenarios that they can experience first-hand.

But the training doesn’t stop at diversity and inclusion. Sexual harassment, workplace bullying, and unconscious bias are some of the other modules that put a user in someone else’s shoes.

“It’s essentially replacing reading and imagining what that situation could be like in order to understand the issues.”

Equal Reality’s business is growing around the globe, with team members and clients in North America, Europe, South America, and Australia.

Credit: Gio Insignares
Equal Reality's training modules center around a VR headset and corresponding handheld controllers to transport and maneuver yourself in that world.

The backbone of the company’s mission centers around a VR headset and a couple of handheld controllers that people use to operate in this world. The goal is to make sure the lessons learned in each situation stick with each person long after they take the headset off.

“We put you through scenarios based on real research and real-life stories of things that can happen,” Martin said. “I think that's the beauty of virtual reality, you can do the impossible.”     

In this case, it’s providing an opportunity into another perspective. Perhaps a perspective you haven’t been able to see before.

“I think it is a powerful tool, but like with any technology, it's not a magic pill but it is a really good means to change behavior and change perspective.”

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