The challenge: When new child welfare workers start training to conduct interviews with families in crisis, they shadow senior case workers to learn the ropes — but because case workers are overworked and have a high turnover rate, that training can be uneven at best. There is also no real standardization of training; while some new caseworkers might get lucky and be paired with an incredible trainer, others might be paired with someone not as experienced or too overwhelmed, and consequently not get the education they need. Caseworkers make life and death decisions every day, and need to get the best training possible to do so.
The solution: Friends With Holograms worked with Accenture to create AvenueS, a 20-minute long voice activated VR experience that allows trainee caseworkers to interview members of a family in crisis. The piece begins with a call to the hotline so the trainee can understand the allegations; from there, Friends With Holograms captured a 360 view of the exterior of the family’s home as the user heard instructions for using the piece. The user then entered the home and was confronted by an angry mother, her intimidating boyfriend, and a scared child.
For most of the piece, the user sits across from members of the family and asks questions. They have three choices of how to ask the question for each topic; each question results in a different answer that yields different amounts of information. At the end of the piece, the user must synthesize everything they have discovered and decide if the children are safe in the home or if they need to be taken into foster care.
Friends With Holograms worked with Emmy-nominated director Kevin Cornish to create a piece that felt realistic and intense. The user interactions were as natural as possible; while reading off cards isn’t exactly what one would do in this situation, using voice as opposed to clicking on questions made it much more realistic. They were also designing for a population that might not be as familiar with VR or game interactions, and wanted to make the piece as accessible as possible.
The piece won Best VR/AR at Mobile World Congress and was a finalist for a SXSW Innovation Award. It is now in use in several states, and in the six months since Indiana started using it, they saw an 18% decrease in caseworker turnover. Friends With Holograms also worked with Accenture to create a second chapter of the piece last year.
STUDIO: Friends With Holograms