Training employees how to perform specific tasks isn’t difficult, but building their soft skills — their interactions with management, fellow employees, and customers — can be more challenging, particularly if there aren’t people around to practice with. Virtual reality training company Talespin announced today that it is leveraging AI to tackle that challenge, using a new “virtual human platform” to create realistic simulations for employee training purposes.

Unlike traditional employee training, which might consist of passively watching a video or lightly interacting with collections of canned multiple choice questions, Talespin’s system has a trainee interact with a virtual human powered by AI, speech recognition, and natural language processing. Because the interactions use VR headsets and controllers, the hardware can track a trainee’s gaze, body movement, and facial expressions during the session.

Talespin’s virtual character is able to converse realistically, guiding trainees through branching narratives using natural mannerisms and believable speech. Visualized as an emotive person rather than a list of steps to memorize, the AI’s adaptive interactive training can teach interpersonal skills including proper communication, conflict resolution, and negotiation.

In a basic training scenario, the virtual human might do something as simple as demonstrating the correct way to act in a situation — effectively, “follow what I’m doing.” To that end, Talespin previously created a VR simulation for Farmers Insurance where a trainee learns to act like a claims adjuster inspecting water damage.

But AI enables the simulation to go broader and deeper. A demo of the new platform places the trainee in the role of an HR employee who must terminate a fellow employee — a challenge for almost any untrained person. Rather than just working through a rote set of procedures, Talespin presents an interactive virtual human, complete with the heavy emotions and stress normally found in that situation. In addition to following a branched narrative, the scenario teaches users how to avoid common wrongful termination issues.

Businesses interested in training using the virtual human platform can find more information at Talespin’s site. The company’s immersive and extended reality solutions are custom-built for enterprise customers, with prices determined on a per-project basis.