The number of different threats security staff and first responders will face over the course of their career is astounding, and they keep evolving with technological advances and political changes. Generating real-life training scenarios for all these threats would simply blow out allocated budgets: some scenarios are just too complex and dangerous to be practiced in real life. Enter serious game which makes use of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and their combination: mixed reality (MR). Put on a VR headset, and virtual reality elements merge with real ones, providing a whole new world of possibilities. It’s a godsend for police, paramedics and firefighter trainers. Developers are starting to realise this potential, while BMT and its 13 partners from across Europe are hoping to shape the new market with their AUGGMED (Automated Serious Game Scenario Generator for Mixed Reality Training) platform. ‘AUGGMED has been developed in close collaboration with end-users,’ says Jenny Rainbird, coordinator of the project. ‘It provides a safe, flexible training environment that can be accessed from any location by multiple agencies. Trainees can assume a variety of roles, making AUGGMED a cost-effective solution when compared with live training exercises.’ AUGGMED benefits from an automated game scenario engine, which defines game logics based on team and individual objectives set by the trainer and generates crowds randomly. With this, the trainer can customise many aspects of the scenario, and trigger events such as explosions, evacuations or suspicious bags. The trainer can also, of course, monitor the progress of the training session, provide feedback and assess performance. The AUGGMED solution was tested in three controlled pilots by over 130 professional users in total. It is divided into three modes: basic VR, immersive multimodal VR and immersive MR. It makes use of the game engine Unity, which is being used for most HoloLens experiences. ‘The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with the vast majority of users indicating that a tool such as AUGGMED would complement current training, whether this takes place in the classroom, in synthetic environments or on a physical training ground,’ Rainbird says. The path to commercial success Despite these early signs of success, AUGGMED will not be the sole offering out there, at least not for VR. So, what exactly sets AUGGMED apart from alternatives? ‘It goes a step further, as the trainees are able to interact with the simulated crowd, and even be affected by fire and toxic gases. Crowd behaviour, along with fires and explosions, are based on the best available models, which also increases the perceived realism and hence the system’s immersiveness,’ Rainbird explains. Furthermore, AUGGMED is ‘doctrine neutral’, meaning that organisations can train and assess their staff using their own training needs, procedures and protocols. With the project’s end now in sight, the AUGGMED team is beginning to focus on their exploitation plan, which harnesses the ‘Gate Governance’ approach of project exploitation lead Serco. Three critical questions will be addressed: How do we keep partners engaged after the project ends? How do we keep momentum after funding finishes? How do we move from a prototype to a practice (commercial) application? The final stage of development is currently under way, and field trials of the MR system will take place in spring 2018. ‘To the best of the partners’ knowledge, the MR prototype training system will be the first of its kind specifically developed for police training. Commercial interest has been encouraging and the partners are committed to taking AUGGMED further, bridging the gap between a prototype and a fully functioning commercial product,’ Rainbird concludes.
AUGGMED, serious game, virtual reality, VR, mixed reality, MR, first responders, police, terrorism, training