Enhancing investigative interview training using a child avatar system: A comparative study of interactive environments

The impact of investigative interviews by police and Child Protective Services (CPS) on abused children can be profound, making effective training vital. Quality in these interviews often falls short and current training programs are insufficient in enabling adherence to best practice. We present a system for simulating an interactive environment with alleged abuse victims using a child avatar. The purpose of the system is to improve the quality of investigative interviewing by providing a realistic and engaging training experience for police and CPS personnel. We conducted a user study to assess the efficacy of four interactive platforms: VR, 2D desktop, audio, and text chat. CPS workers and child welfare students rated the quality of experience (QoE), realism, responsiveness, immersion, and flow. We also evaluated perceived learning impact, engagement in learning, self-efficacy, and alignment with best practice guidelines. Our findings indicate VR as superior in four out of five quality aspects, with 66% participants favoring it for immersive, realistic training. Quality of questions posed is crucial to these interviews. Distinguishing between appropriate and inappropriate questions, we achieved 87% balanced accuracy in providing effective feedback using our question classification model. Furthermore, CPS professionals demonstrated superior interview quality compared to non-professionals, independent of the platform.