Winner of NIST VR Challenge Creates Training Tool for First Responders
By Gabi Weiss
Beginning this past February, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) posted a “Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge” for a prize of $20,000. The challenge was to “design a physical measurement environment that uses immersive, virtual reality (VR) tools for testing new first responder technologies”3. In other words, the goal of the challenge was for participants to create a VR world in which first respondents could use as a training method. By using VR as a practice to improve their skills, first responders are thrown into a series of 360-degree experiences that almost appear too real.
The winner of the competition, Jason Jerald, was posted on June 12. Co-founder and principal consultant at NextGen Interactions, Jerald also serves on advisory boards for several companies that emphasize the use of VR technology. This competition was nothing out of reach for Jerald, as he has created VR systems for around the past 20 years1.
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Jerald’s winning VR system known as FirstSimVR, serves as an adjustable VR system that creates fully immersive scenes for first responders to practice mediating real world scenarios. Not only does his VR system prove to be critical in providing first responders with the upmost, state-of-the-art training techniques in order to provide better services to protect the public, it also serves as a precautionary method for the actual first responders themselves. Duplicating real world situations can be expensive, but more importantly, they can also be dangerous for participants.
To simplify, creating a virtual environment allows first responders to get the full amount of training needed to protect the public without putting themselves at direct risk. In fact, Jerald’s VR system offers more than standardized training methods through its ability to offer unique audio situations and touching applications that simulate a sense of tangible interaction. Together, these cues set the tone for a real world experience2.
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In addition, its versatile scenarios add to its ability to support features such as “automated motion capture,” which grabs the data necessary to analyze head/eye tracking in order to map out the participants experience. Also, microphones are used to study the “commands, anxiety and breath” that can help determine the overall performance of the training. Another unique feature of FirstSimVR is the ability to simultaneously support the experiences of multiple users. Users are able to interact with each other to the point of being able to pass equipment and move heavy objects. Jerald hopes FirstSimVR is used as a prototype to assess and improve future VR systems for first responder training.
Furthermore, one of FirstSimVR’s most efficient attributes is its interoperability. Essentially, this means the system has the ability to exchange software in order to make use of information. In reference to FirstSimVR, the latest hardware can be used, while also allowing users to swap it out for cheaper hardware in an efficient manner2.
Founded in 1901, NIST’s mission is to provide funding and support for human-made, technological projects of all sizes3. With the help of NIST, Jerald was able to create his VR system, which was built in an effort to enhance the security and quality of life for first responders, and in turn, those who need their help most.
- “Challenge.gov.” Challengegov. N.p., 12 June 2017. Web. 16 June 2017.
- FirstSimVR:Measuring Future Tools Using Today’s VR. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2017.
- Hernandez, Paul. “NIST Mission, Vision, Core Competencies, and Core Values.” NIST. N.p., 26 Jan. 2017. Web. 16 June 2017.