Virti Raises $10M to Train Real People With Virtual Humans
British virtual training startup Virti has closed a $10 million Series A funding round led by IQ Capital. Virti’s digital environment uses AI-powered virtual humans to train people in communication and other skills. Initially focused on doctors and other medical professional skills, the startup is expanding into other enterprise training such as sales and management.
Virti designs virtual humans that users can interact with through a virtual reality headset in 3D or in two dimensions on mobile devices and computers. The sessions mimic specific scenarios and score the user on how well they perform. For the doctor training, the simulations include complicated or difficult tasks like giving bad news to patients and their families or figuring out the right questions to ask when diagnosing someone. The language, tone, and other factors are all factors in how the AI responds and the ultimate final score. Virti claims its platform also eliminates much of the bias inherent in the standard training when determining how well the participant did in the simulation. And, of course, using virtual reality and AI is far less expensive than the usual methods of training with actors and coaches while also being more effective, as Virti reported improvement in training outcomes of up to 230%.
“There’s not a lot of standardization for soft skills, but making decisions and leadership need training, especially under pressure,” Virti CEO Alex Young told Voicebot in an interview earlier this year. “Unless you do something regularly, you might not be so adept as if you’re doing it every day. My ethos was, how can we make non-technical skills training repeatable and scalable. That was our big goal, to set a new standard for training people.”
The medical professional skillsets Virti began with are just part of the startup’s plans. The same technology can be used to train people in sales and other business skills. The flexibility of virtual humans is part of their appeal, as experiments ranging from Nestle Toll House’s virtual human “cookie coach” Ruth to YouTube star Taryn Southern’s virtual clone show. Platforms like MetaHuman Creator are getting attention for making ultrarealistic appearances for virtual humans, and startups like CoCo Hub are creating virtual influencers capable of writing pop songs. The funding will help Virti work on improving the technology and expand its business size. The three-year-old startup reported a 978% jump in revenue last year, which is likely attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic shifting so much of people’s lives online, including training for doctors. That trend isn’t going to fade even as businesses reopen, Young believes since the effectiveness and price point of virtual training are too obvious to walk away from.
“On-the-job training can be serendipitous, with the learning experience varying significantly depending on where you are, what day it is and who is training you. Soft skills also tend to be subjectively assessed in most settings,” Young said. “We’re providing the tools to help organizations create and distribute evidence-based training, which can be standardized and scaled across organizations and geographies. The data insights our platform generates reduce training variability and generate objective feedback that can aid real-world improvement – with the ultimate goal of improving human performance around the globe.”