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Paper: Enhancing Operational Police Training in High Stress Situations with Virtual Reality: Experiences, Tools and Guidelines
SHOTPROS - Police VR Scenario Tech Demo
What makes a Smartvest Smart?
10X Improvement in Fire Services training using REDSUIT
SUIT VR Backpack Mk2 Nearing Completion
Thoughts about increasing Efficiency in Learning
The Positive Impact of Informal After Action Reviews
Tactical Belt Prototype in H2020 SHOTPROS

What makes a Smartvest Smart?

You might wonder: what’s a Smartvest and why is it smart anyways? It’s smart due to all the electronics in it that are interacting together in a way that benefits instead of disturbing the user.

Let’s get into more detail of what is needed to make this work.

How to Design your Virtual Reality Training System?

Training using VR requires complex technology camouflaged as easy to use. Preferably, it also shouldn’t look like a computer, otherwise, IT-adverse people will refrain from going anywhere near it. A list of users wants and needs:
  1. To be immersed into the digital world
  2. Realism in graphics and sound
  3. A natural way of interacting with the digital world
  4. To interact with multiple users in the digital world
  5. To move freely
  6. To put on and remove equipment in approximately 5 minutes
  7. Bio-signal feedback
  8. A one-size-fits-all
  9. 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.

In the image above, the grey parts are part of the Smartvest. It’s basically a tactical vest with extensions for head, arms and legs and a VR headset. Attached to the vest is the computing box or, in simpler words: a wearable computer or in jargon, a VR backpack. Let’s walk through these wants and needs one-by-one.

R1: Users need to be immersed into the Digital World

This requires a VR headset with enough display resolution to be able to render all details in the digital world. Plus: the lenses in the VR headset need a wide enough field-of-view to be able to use eye-movement instead of head-movement. This in turn requires fast response times; long delays of head movement, known as latency, cause motion sickness.

R2: Users want realism in Graphics and Sound

Users want to be able to see a lively digital world: buildings, vegetation, characters, cars, busses, environmental sounds, wind effects, movement, etc. They expect the digital world to be a close approximation of the real world. In other words, for example: playstation-10 or Xbox-20 style-graphics.

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:

Consequences of this balance:
  • 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

VR devices need to be in contact through a multi-user network for multiple users to be able to interact. The number of interacting users in the same physical space dictates if wireless streaming of graphics and audio from a powerful PC to a VR device can be used or if they need a wearable computer strapped to their body that is in turn connected to the VR device.

R5: Users want to move around freely in the Physical World

Users immersed in the digital world are not sufficiently aware of the physical world, this is exactly the point. Therefore, users need to be able to move around freely without cables attached. Otherwise, users and equipment could end up damaged when moving too far.

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

Digital training tools like VR offer the benefit of objective measurements. For example how or how fast tasks are executed. Next to task performance, it is also interesting to know why performance is the way it is. Recording and replaying bio-signals can help out in this area. In the H2020 Shotpros project for instance, we are measuring different signals that can be indicators for stress.

R8: Users need a one-size-fits-all-solution

People come in all shapes and sizes so how do we cope with this? Elastic textiles to the rescue! Parts of the Smartvest are elastic to accommodate for this challenge. Another option is to provide sets in different sizes but this requires duplicating electronics and cables. One-size-fits-all keeps VR affordable.

R9: Users need a hygienic solution

Contrary to desktop VR when you’re sitting behind your desk, you’ll start to sweat when going through natural and exciting movements in VR. After use, the Smartvests can be cleaned with an anti-bacterial and anti-odor spray. This prevents nasty surprises for the next user.


Not every type of training needs a Smartvest. For instance in approximately 80% of de-escalation police training, a simpler model of VR can be used. More on that to come in the near future!

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.

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