What began as a virtual reality (VR) marketing agency transformed to become Bodyswaps, an innovative soft skills training solution that harnesses the power of VR and artificial intelligence. Early mentorship through Digital Catapult’s Augmentor acceleration programme helped Bodyswaps® identify a change in direction, resulting in a solution that has a powerful and positive impact on behavioural learning, as well as enabling them to raise private investment from one of the programme partners.
Simulations that build soft skills
Bodyswaps® helps to prepare individuals for the reality of interacting with people in sensitive or stressful moments, such as performance management or safeguarding situations. The training solution helps learners to develop and practise their emotional intelligence, and to adopt and embed appropriate behaviours when talking to colleagues or peers, or people in difficult situations, in particular where mishandling could make things much worse, or where mistakes cannot be made.
The VR training scenarios are a highly sophisticated form of role play; using virtual embodiment the learners interact with a virtual character, then swap bodies and watch an avatar of themselves as the situation is played back. The impact of this new perspective is powerful, encouraging self-reflection and embedding learning from practical experience within a virtual environment.
The platform then provides analysis and feedback to the learner, including any relevant hints and tips, and evaluates progress throughout the learning journey. Analysis and reporting enable the individual to measure progress and receive personalised tips for improvement.
Recognising the solution’s true potential: a eureka moment for Bodyswaps
The value of Augmentor programme lies not only in the access to workshops, facilities and funding opportunities, but also in the network connections and interactions with other cohort startups, Digital Catapult team and their broader networks.
In the case of Bodyswaps®, constructive and critical feedback and encouragement from one of the mentors led to the development of Bodyswaps® as a solution that helps to bridge the gap between training environments and reality – a pivot that has proved to be successful.
Working with Augmentor, Digital Catapult’s immersive acceleration programme, gave Bodyswaps additional credibility and access to guidance that kept them one step ahead when applying for funding from Innovate UK and private investors, HTC’s Vive X, a long-standing investor partner of Augmentor.
“At Vive we see a huge opportunity for VR in the soft skills sector. Having seen Bodyswaps in action during Augmentor, the team showed their ability to learn quickly and developed a deep understanding of not just technology but also the L&D space.
It’s also been great to see that Bodyswaps have been able to work with a number of large companies at an early stage, for instance Save the Children, meaning that they are well placed to now attract new customers.”
Dave Haynes, Director of Vive X & Developer Ecosystem, HTC Vive
Effective and powerful presentation
“You need to know what story to tell, and how to tell it. Digital Catapult helped us to take the right approach and become pitch perfect.”
Bodyswaps founder, Christophe Mallet.
An impactful presentation and narrative around the solution is essential, and Bodyswaps found the pitch coaching preparation the investor day to be especially valuable, as were the workshops focused on investment topics.
Support from Digital Catapult and the business-minded innovation community has continued since Augmentor, including further advice and guidance on funding applications, which have since proved successful.
Awards, growth and a successful launch
In partnership with the Humanitarian Leadership Academy, the Bodyswap team has developed a safeguarding solution that enables NGO observers to know the relevant rules, empathise with protagonists and be confident in reporting any problems. This won ‘Best XR Project in Training & Education’ and the Grand Prix at Virtuality Paris in 2019.
The team has since made the solution even easier for industry to access by developing modules for common challenges which can be used off-the-shelf. Bodyswaps launched to the general market in May 2020. In 2021, launched a series of simulations around Inclusive Leadership, designed for organisations looking to transform their leadership culture, sustain high-performance and foster the well-being of their workforce.
Seed funding raised
Identification and pursuit of a new market opportunity and product application
Additional funding and business support from Augmentor partners, HTC’s VIVE X
Ongoing support and mentorship, including input on further funding applications