This Startup’s Human-Like Avatars Will Revolutionize Corporate Training

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Trenario avatars

Corporate training, often regarded as a dull and avoided process for employees to learn new skills, is undergoing a vibrant paradigm shift. Valued at $367.6 billion in 2019 globally, as technological innovations ebb and flow new job markets, new skills are required to be learned by existing employees, but for the most part, they’re never learned well enough.

A variety of training and mentorship delivery programs for the workplace exist today, from instructor led courses to online MOOCs, audio based podcasts and virtual reality. And while existing practices do attempt to equip their employees, it’s often a highly inefficient process, much less effective. In fact, according to the Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve, 90% of learning will be lost within one week of training if the skills and knowledge are not reinforced or applied directly to the job. The best training is imbued through on-the-job experience.

Subscribing to this widely established notion, Israeli startup Trenario is digitizing the training medium, allowing corporates to scale their training offering to myriad use cases and contexts cost-effectively.

Founded in 2017 by Moti Shatner, an expert in AI and machine learning, and Dina Shatner, an expert in the psychology of learning, Trenario developed a platform that provides dozens of virtual trainers. These avatars look and talk like humans and can interact with workers in a realistic manner. Trenario targets corporate training and mentoring of employees for use cases in sales, customer support, call centers, management skills, and business skills development. 

The company’s technology is built on an AI engine that creates the building blocks to a human-like avatar. They employ natural language generation, wherein the avatars can communicate with character, in a semi-automatic way. Their neural networks render the avatar and they use machine learning on the data collected from the interaction to make predictions. For instance, a salesperson candidate can use Trenario to simulate an interaction with a potential client and identify the areas of weakness in which they should practice more. It maps the level of active knowledge – that which the employee implements, or doesn’t. Akin to experiential learning, the platform maps those knowledge level gaps and purposely engages the employee on that topic, enabling them to reinforce their understanding of that topic. The employees can also re-try parts of a session and experiment with multiple reactions.

Typically, a new call center representative will receive one to three weeks of instructor-led training. With Trenario, they receive a human-like mentor and a variety of realistic clients they can interact with, in multiple contexts, like an irate client or timid client. Consequently, when they go do the actual job, they’re more experienced.

“We can take any raw material and turn it into an interaction with an avatar,” explained Shatner. In addition to their off-the-shelf offering, Trenario’s AI engine can also create scenarios tailored to a company’s custom training needs. For example, one of their clients use Trenario’s avatars to present the organization’s quarterly news to all employees. 

Trenario’s suite of human-like avatars . Graphic: Trenario.

Trenario also services job seekers for practicing and simulating job interviews. The experience is highly engaging, effectively simulating the stressful nature of a real interview and invoking emotional responses from candidates. Virtual interviewers and mentors are programmed to lead the learners towards answers and reactions that are considered ‘best practice’, like emphasizing dialogue on discussions surrounding the salary, or personal strengths and weaknesses. Shatner highlighted the value of practicing in “a safe environment, where it’s OK to make errors.”

They’re currently working with large companies on skills development for new and existing employees. “We’re also working with MIT and Harvard professors in extending the reach of their specialized course work, like simulating a negotiation with realistic interaction.”

The startup began R&D three years ago when they raised one round of financing. They’re currently working in Israel, the US, Europe and in the far east.

Trenario is one of multiple companies targeting the corporate training space, like Udemy and Coursera in online e-learning programs, and Adobe generating cartoons for video based instructor-led courses, as well as VR simulations. According to LinkedIn’s annual survey, 59% of corporate learning and development (‘talent developers’) budgets are dedicated to online learning. Although, Trenario is pioneering the sector on cost-effectiveness, bringing down their prices to almost 10% of prevailing training delivery methods.

Moreover, Shatner envisions a future with training becoming more integral during working hours. “There’s a lot of unexplored space in corporate training today and we believe Trenario can cover it.” 

Shatner also believes knowledge sharing will accelerate to unforeseen levels, wherein high quality training will become a commodity and students and workers alike will be able to master skills much faster. “In three years, we believe the average person won’t be able to compare the difference between an avatar and a human, giving more rise to emotional human-to-machine connections.” In the not too distant future, Shatner hopes personal human-like avatar trainers will become commonplace, used and relied on by people throughout their day.

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