Opinions and Insights
Enhancing Operational Police Training in High Stress Situations with Virtual Reality: Experiences, Tools and Guidelines
RE-liON's newest VR fire fighting system on track for delivery
We’re proud to announce that RE-liON has achieved a key milestone for our ASEAN project: we’ve just completed the Critical Design Review for a new VR fire fighting training and assessment system.
Achieving this milestone is important for the customer and for us, to align expectations in the requirements and delivery timeline”, says our Manager of Operations, Niek Oude Essink Nijhuis.
This is the first time RE-liON delivers directly to that specific Government. It’s a milestone in the company’s history: the customer has a well-known reputation and the country is seen as Asia’s technology capital. That’s why it’s an honor and a mark of approval to have this project awarded to RE-liON”.
RE-liON was awarded the contract in March. The next milestone will be the factory acceptance tests at the end of 2022. After delivery, our local partner Starburst, will collaborate with us for the sustainment of the system.
SHOTPROS - Police VR Scenario Tech Demo
Last week during the H2020 Review, the SHOTPROS consortium presented the first results of the VR world used in the second high-stress terrorism scenario. Both scenario and the VR world are being co-developed together in an iterative process with the research partners as well as the end-user stakeholders: the 5 police agencies (LEA’s) involved in the consortium. This ensures a good result.
This VR world is a good example of a multi-purpose environment that allows multiple scenarios ranging from low-stress to high-stress:
- Vehicle search
- Pub fight
- Knife crime
- Explosive Improvised Devices (IED) threats
- Vehicle ramming into a crowd on a public square
What makes a Smartvest Smart?
Let’s get into more detail of what is needed to make this work.
How to Design your Virtual Reality Training System?
- To be immersed into the digital world
- Realism in graphics and sound
- A natural way of interacting with the digital world
- To interact with multiple users in the digital world
- To move freely
- To put on and remove equipment in approximately 5 minutes
- Bio-signal feedback
- A one-size-fits-all
- A hygienic solution
Design decisions become easier if there is:
- no need for physical interaction or
- if the number of users in VR in the same physical room is below 2 to 4.
After going through the design process, we ended up with the Smartvest as shown above for certain type of training: CQB, Small Unit Tactics, etc. In these situations, being able to have physical contact and quickly being able to use many different replica tools in VR is very important.
This one of the reasons behind the Smartvest.
R1: Users need to be immersed into the Digital World
R2: Users want realism in Graphics and Sound
In police de-escalation or military training, users want to be able to spot if a digital character at a distance of 3-10 meters is carrying a pen or a knife in its hands.
Everything in the digital world can be a trigger to decide and act.
The Math(ish) of the balance between Graphical Realism, Computing Power and battery life:
- Add a digital character = less power left for realism and/or smaller digital world and/or…
- Increase realism = less vegetation and/or less objects and/or ….
- Longer playtime on 1 set of batteries = less realism and/or …
R3: Users want a natural way of interacting with the Digital World
The speed of action and type of training: more cognitive or motor skills determine how natural interaction needs to feel with the digital environment. For example:
- To walk around, is it ok to use a small joystick on a VR controller, is it ok to use teleporting in VR or is real walking/running/crawling a requirement?
- Another example is physical interaction: is this necessary? If not, then this eliminates the need for capturing full body motion.
- To use certain tools replicated in the VR environment, is it ok to use a VR controller with buttons and a joystick or is a replica of the physical tool required?
- And if replica tools are needed, how many of these replica tools need to be used in VR at the same time?
Is haptic feedback, the experience of touch through force or vibration, necessary? If so, only on one point or throughout your body? This point is linked to natural movement: if you are using VR controllers or teleporting for locomotion, haptic feedback is a nice to have. If you are physically moving around, then it is a need to have to warn users when they are on the brink of walking through digital walls or other structural elements.
An example when this frequently happens: when users are facing forward but walking backwards in for example a de-escalation situation: without haptic feedback, users will end up in another digital room (or physical obstacle) if they keep walking backwards without having a warning.
Our smartvest has 12 integrated microcontrollers that are placed throughout your body. Each microcontroller gives you a bit of haptic feedback.
We can vary frequency and amplitude of the feedback giving trainees different cues with our software. For example: walking into a virtual wall, touching a virtual table or feeling a simulated character touching you on the shoulders.
R4: Users need to interact with others in the Digital World
R5: Users want to move around freely in the Physical World
No cables attached is easy when using wireless streaming from a powerful PC on the side to your VR headset. However this becomes a hurdle when there’s a larger number of users in the same physical location. The interference due to wireless VR streaming then becomes an issue and cables between a PC and VR device are needed.
To prevent this issue, you can use VR backpacks (= wearable computers). They’re worn by the user with a short cable from the VR backpack to the VR headset. These VR backpacks do need to be able to run at least 1.5-2 hours on one battery charge, otherwise training with multiple users becomes a logistical nightmare of changing batteries
R6: Users want to put on and remove equipment in < 5 minutes
In the end, production of training or rapid use in operations is a key argument for an organization to use VR as a tool. From an efficiency point of view, it’s counter-productive if the trainee has to wear 10-20 different devices, turn them all on, can get entangled in wires, cause damage, etc and the inverse again when removing equipment after training.
That’s why its best to have one piece of equipment that can be turned on/off with one switch, and has one hot-swappable power source.
R7: Bio-signal Feedback
R8: Users need a one-size-fits-all-solution
R9: Users need a hygienic solution
The Smartvest is a ‘SUIT’ that is completely programmable based on the needs of the user. Smart eh? Designed in The Netherlands, produced in the EU.
10X Improvement in Fire Services training using REDSUIT
We collaborated with Twente Fire Services to create this short video. They use REDSUIT to train reconnaissance skills and compartment fire-fighting.
Some time ago, Twente Fire Services recognised the limits of their regular training programme and they indicated that they could not ignore the benefits of virtual training anymore. Therefore, they joined the REDSUIT co-development program. Twente Fire Services are using REDSUIT to remove overhead and speed up cognitive and motor skill training. The scenarios feature an array of stressors and training environments and include realistic replica equipment. This complete package stimulates and motivates the trainees.
The result? A 10x improvement in diversity of situations trained compared to regular training.
Of course, this is not a complete replacement of regular training. REDSUIT improves regular training: it ensures trainees have the right skills and are safe when going into a live burn house. and ensures that instructors have insight in trainee performance. . This ensures trainees are ready and safe when going into a live burn house.
Netherlands Prison Service (DJI) completes VR training program
A team of RE-liON supported a 2-week BLACKSUIT training event for 2 tactical units of the Custodial Institutions Agency (MinJ&V BOT/LBB). The event proved to be an excellent test case for the new hard- and software upgrades RE-liON has been developing lately.
Each day a 4-hour session was provided at our training location, for a total of approximately 75 trainees and instructors.
Training statistics clearly confirmed one of the big benefits of VR: rapid variations around 1-2 training goals and a quick turnaround time between scenarios. Instructors were highly impressed by the deep insight offered through the After Action Review.
SUIT VR Backpack Mk2 Nearing Completion
We can finally share a little progress update on our new SUIT release. Following weeks of development, I am happy to share some details of the progress. We’re planning to release this new SUIT Mk2 in the spring.
We launched the first release of SUIT in 2017. Since then, we’ve learned a lot of lessons and collected customer insight, as well as new needs and wishes. We’ve integrated many of these in the new SUIT Mk2 VR backpack.
The picture shows the 2 generations side-by-side. The new Mk2 computing box is designed from scratch and housed in a custom-made metal shell. We added many benefits like extra computing power and improved moisture resistance.
The extra computing power gives you added possibilities. You can now use:
- larger virtual environments
- more computer generated avatars (such as crowds)
- higher resolution of visuals in the Head Mounted Display.
The higher resolution makes quite a difference during a scenario: “is the person in front of me holding a pencil or is it a weapon?”
Rain and batteries are not a very good combination! We moved the batteries from the front of the Smart Vest to inside the computing box. The added protection takes us closer to an outdoor-proof version of the SUIT system.
We’ll be testing the new equipment extensively in the coming weeks to see how it behaves in real training conditions. More to follow soon!
Thoughts about increasing Efficiency in Learning
Many courses take place at the (central) training centres. This is not always practical nor efficient. This is especially visible during this pandemic, now we’re all forced to work from home and limit physical contact with our colleagues.
Many organizations have already split their curricula in individual and collective training. One can also break out the individual training into smaller elements, for example according to Bloom’s taxonomy (see a few posts earlier):
Examples using Bloom's taxonomy
From all of Bloom’s learning phases, only the Apply phase requires psycho-motor skills. All the other phases can also be trained without, when we look at, for example, first responder training.
To illustrate: The Remember and Understand phases can be learned in VR just by visualising the procedure, looking at it from different angles or at different speeds (slow motion or frozen in time). Good candidates for police training could be: How to stop a vehicle; how a car or person checkpoint is setup and executed; how to recognize different type of doors in room clearing, etc. The possibilities are endless.
This video offers a good explanation on visualisation techniques:
You learn higher order skills during the Analyse and Evaluate phases. These are gained by actively taking part in after action reviews of your own, or your colleague’s behaviour. Finally, the Create phase is applicable to instructors who want to come up with variations in scenarios required to achieve certain learning goals.
Do you have great examples of scenarios applicable to your field, that would be suitable to train anywhere, anytime? Which skills would you like to train if you have 20 mins to kill in a waiting room. A boss-approved version of Angry Birds, that would make you better and faster at your job?
The Impact of Informal After Action Reviews
The author makes a distinction between a formal and informal AAR. The informal process is quick and takes place immediately after a notable event. The formal AAR takes place after finishing up the training session, and takes more time.
Tactical Belt Prototype in H2020 SHOTPROS
In many first responder type organizations, instructors refer to the ‘train as you fight’ or ‘fight as you train’ philosophy . According to instructors, the definition of this term is immersing learners in a realistic training environment using realistic equipment. If this equipment is body-worn, then it needs to be present at the place where the learner expects it to stimulate muscle-memory. The definition is a bit problematic though as all training, traditional and VR, is an approximation. No training except the real operation is realistic.
The tactical belt shown below is developed for this ‘train as you fight’ purpose. A mix of passive electronics and 3D printing was used to keep it as affordable as possible.
Is Realistic Always Required?
- Cognitive: thinking
- Affective: feeling, emotions
- Psychomotor: doing
Pilot training is a great example in this area: a pilot uses a scala of tools. Each tool has a place depending on what you need to learn and its efficiency. Pilots start out with e-learning, then move to a Flight Training Device (a mockup dashboard to become more familiar with the controls), followed by the flight simulator and finally, the actual device itself (plane, helicopter, etc).
The reason behind this method is efficiency or whatever the organization you work for is trying to achieve (motivation of learners, increase in quality of learners, etc).
PWC coined the term digital transformation for a good reason….
Disclaimer: this project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement No 833672. The content reflects only the Shotpros consortium’s view. Research Executive Agency and European Commission is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.