smu guildhall academics

The Avatar Project

A Dating Violence Prevention Project 

In a partnership spanning 10 years with the SMU Department of Psychology, SMU Guildhall students and faculty develop VR role-play simulations for behavioral research studies. 

SMU Guildhall supports the research efforts of Dr. Ernie Jouriles of the SMU Department of Psychology, in collaboration with the Family Research Center, to raise awareness of dating violence and teach teens to practice assertiveness skills. 

Since the project began, additional animations, props, and voice modulation features have been added to support new technology including the Oculus RiftS and to pilot a study on the effects of racism on making the choice to drink alcohol. In 2022, this IVET was employed for a $5,000 internal research grant that offered improv sessions in VR designed to teach Emotional Intelligence. We use the IVETs to continue to reach into high-schools and address risky teen behaviors for “The Avatar Project”, as part of the Virtual Reality behavioral research “Female Avatar Project”, an Oculus Rift VR simulation used to assist college students’ responses when confronted with a situation that could lead to another individual getting hurt and “My Voice, My Choice”, a VR simulation behavioral research simulation to train college students to reduce the incidence of sexual violence in adolescent girls. 

For 2022-2023, a $30,000 University Research Grant was used to update the simulation with male and female Police avatars in the Porch and School scenes to be used in officer training scripted simulations, along with additional interactor avatar animations. This brings the current total to eight IVETs deployed in behavioral psychology research including voice modulation capabilities and a participant stress meter for role-play scenario. In response to our leadership role in virtual/augmented/SMU Guildhall first created a secluded car scenario VR simulation using Half-Life 2, for which a research article was published, Reducing Sexual Victimization Among Adolescent Girls: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial of My Voice, My Choice. SMU Guildhall later recreated the simulation in 2015 for Unity with new Oculus VR support and is still developing for The Avatar Project, a further expansion of the Oculus Rift VR simulations.


Learn More  |  The Avatar Projet in the News:

Research Profile; SMU News