Over the last 15 years, a virtual revolution has taken place in the use of Virtual Reality simulation technology for clinical purposes. Shifts in the social and scientific landscape have now set the stage for the next major movement in Clinical Virtual Reality with the “birth” of intelligent virtual humans. Seminal research and development has appeared in the creation of highly interactive, artificially intelligent and natural language capable virtual human agents that can engage real human users in a credible fashion. No longer at the level of a prop to add context or minimal faux interaction in a virtual world, virtual humans can be designed to perceive and act in a 3D virtual world, engage in spoken dialogues with real users and can be capable of exhibiting human-like emotional reactions. This paper will present an overview of the SimCoach project that aims to develop virtual human support agents to serve as online guides for promoting access to psychological healthcare information and for assisting military personnel and family members in breaking down barriers to initiating care. The SimCoach experience is being designed to attract and engage military Service Members, Veterans and their significant others who might not otherwise seek help with a live healthcare provider. It is expected that this experience will motivate users to take the first step–to empower themselves to seek advice and information regarding their healthcare and general personal welfare and encourage them to take the next step towards seeking more formal resources if needed.
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