Fidelity Labs, the research arm of Fidelity Investments, has teamed up with Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) to showcase a virtual reality system in which people can talk to financial advisors about their investment portfolios in a virtual world.
According to Fortune, Fidelity Labs and Amazon showed off a demo of what the technology can do with a financial advisor and a virtual reality headset running on Amazon's Sumerian VR developer tools. The test is part of an effort to discover realistic uses for VR if the technology ever takes off with consumers. Adam Schouela, vice president at Fidelity Labs, told Fortune that, if the technology is embraced by the masses, financial services companies don't want to be playing catch-up and will have the expertise already in place to create the VR apps that will be used by consumers.
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With the demonstration, investors were able to have a conversation with Cora, a virtual financial planner who can provide stock performance on a specific company and a stock chart that shows up on a wall in Cora's virtual reality office. Schouela told Fortune that one of the highlights of the demo was Cora's ability to respond to voice commands instead of requiring a user to use the VR controller to interact with the VR financial planner. The technology is in the experimental stage, but the executive told Fortune that he plans to show it to existing Fidelity customers to get feedback.
This isn't the first VR experiment that the Boston-based fund company has engaged in. Last fall, Fidelity started quietly testing virtual reality technology in its call centers to help customer service representatives boost their empathy when dealing with stressed-out clients. For the trial, call center workers were equipped with virtual reality headsets so they could better understand what the customer was going through and better handle incoming calls. Fidelity said at the time that it is the first company in the financial sector to test out this technology for increasing empathy among call center workers.
Built on the Google VR headset, the Fidelity virtual reality system activates when a customer service rep in the call center receives a call from a client that needs to take money out of his or her account. During the interaction with the client, the customer service rep is shown the customer in his or her kitchen with a pile of bills strewn about. By seeing that image, the customer service rep, in theory, will be more understanding of the customer's plight and in turn express more empathy and more willingness to find a solution.