Potomac Driving by the Bank of America building on Falls Road every day, one most likely never notices an innocuous black and white sign announcing that WILL Interactive, Inc. resides in that building. The mystery of the name may only momentarily tweak one’s brain.
However, inside the WILL Interactive, Inc. offices are a set, actors, cameras, lighting, props, writers, producers, editors , graphic designers, software experts — and one innovative founder who created and patented the Interactive Behavior Modification System upon which WILL's Virtual Experience Immersive Learning Simulations (VEILS) are built. Sharon Sloane and her company create computer-based interactive movie virtual experiences that combine education, training and entertainment for organizations such as the NFL, US Army, DOD, FBI, Fannie Mae, HHS, Medstar Health and more. Their subjects are meaningful and diverse — topics that can change lives, behaviors, and performance.
“In 1998, we invented and patented a behavior change and performance improvement methodology where users become the lead character in an interactive movie simulation,” Sloane said. “Users make decisions, see consequences of their choices, alter storylines and experience outcomes. WILL’s initial video dealt with the important and timely subject of HIV/AIDS prevention.”
Since its founding 20 years ago, WILL has produced more than 70 training simulations concerning topics that confront military, schools, law enforcement, professional athletics and government as well as society. These include: suicide prevention in the military, warrior psychological health/PTSD, military ethics, prescription drug misuse and prevention for service members, anti-terrorism/force protection, hate, bias and school violence prevention, peer pressure, foreclosure prevention, domestic violence prevention, safe sex and responsible drinking for young adults and more. The company’s motto is “Play It Out Before You Live It Out.” Through virtual experiences, users learn to perform under realistic day-to-day stresses and discover how to make better decisions through real-life risks and consequences.
The company overview explains their product: “VEILS allow learners to make tough decisions in the safety of cyberspace before encountering them in real life. VEILS methodology utilizes a unique combination of instructional design, behavioral science, adult learning theory, gaming theory, script writing, filmmaking, video editing and software-development to create simulations that have been shown to decrease training time while improving individual decision-making and performance.”
The accolades this 22-employee company has received are varied. Sloane was awarded the 2009 Women in Film and Video, "Women of Vision Award," for her contributions as a technical innovator, educator and influential female business owner. WILL has received a multitude of “Communicator Awards” as well as Software Industry and Information Association (SIIA) CODiE Awards. The U.S. Army, the Association of Educational Publishers and many other organizations have continually recognized WILL’s products.
Secretary of the Army Pete Geren said, “I am confident your work has saved lives.”
NBC cited its work, “WILL has created the most powerful use of technology yet seen for helping people improve decision making skills about real-life issues.”
The president of the American School Health Association said, “VEILS will revolutionize education. They are miles beyond what anyone else has even imagined yet.”
To make an even greater difference, WILL has embarked on a philanthropic effort. They launched a “500,000 Simulate a Better World Challenge” in December 2011 to identify societal issues to address through one of their VEILS game-based video simulations. The winner, chosen by a panel of distinguished judges, was “The Coming Home Project,” a San Francisco-based non-profit that helps veterans, their families and employers address the challenges of transitioning from active-duty service to meaningful civilian employment. WILL Interactive will create a computer-based training simulation to support the work of The Coming Home Project. They will absorb all product development costs including script development, actor selection, live filming, pre and post-production and editing. The simulation will be distributed nationwide through the joint efforts of The Coming Home Project and WILL Interactive.
“This simulation will be focused on returning service members and helping them bridge the gap with the civilian workforce,” said Chris Stezin, WILL’s senior writer/product development manager. “Many employment recruiters don’t know how to connect with the service members. There is no in-depth guidance provided for this very specific culture. We will show the difficulties of the job search from the vantage point of a service member as well as from the employer’s side. Each has their own challenges.”
“After receiving an abundance of submissions from organizations across the country on an array of topics important to our communities and our country, we are honored to present the Coming Home Project with this opportunity and are excited to begin developing this new product,” said Sloane. “It’s the first time we have ever done anything like this — and we are seeking to partner with corporations to help us fund the distribution.”
Sloane’s motto for her company is, “We believe in doing well by doing good. At the end of the day, did we make a difference?”
To find out more about WILL Interactive, Inc. go to www.willinteractive.com or call 1-877-ALL-WILL.