The proposed research project is aimed at investigating the feasibility to provide an advanced virtual reality (VR) based evaluation and training system for emergency responders involved in biosafety response and cleanup. This SBIR Phase I project will create a proof of concept prototype of a virtual environment for emergency response evaluation and training to emulate immersive biosafety emergency response. This initiative, built with the latest VR technologies, will enable trainees to safely practice critical decision-making in an immersive environment This project will leverage unique advanced software technology and engineering to create computer-based virtual emergency response evaluation and training environments that provide more authentic, complex, lifelike and critical training experiences on an advanced VR system. Delivering this level of functionality through cost-effective VR devices is truly unique and innovative. The proposed conceptual model will support accurate assessment and development of the most important skills contributing to effective performance among emergency responders. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) systems are now widely regarded as excellent training platforms for complex and demanding tasks. Applying these technologies to support the evaluation and training of a wide range of skills needed to support personnel and diverse scenarios such as biosafety spills, HAZMAT disasters and bioterrorism threats will help minimize the potential catastrophic consequences of these events. The research and development of the proposed system will advance the field of environmental health and safety training within the HAZMAT context by bringing to it new and innovative advanced training technologies based on the virtual and augmented reality technologies. Furthermore, the research and development proposed herein will advance the VR/AR domain by developing an integrated toolset for training emergency responders to follow detailed plans by providing access to the operational procedures within a VR or AR headset. Our team is bringing together specialists in innovative VR/AR development with a prominent expert in Crisis Leadership training and a world renowned expert in the development of key predictors of performance. We propose to develop a sophisticated and life-like evaluation and training environment that will be designed to assess the key skills and contributors to performance among emergency responders as well as strengthen these factors to enhance their performance in biosafety-related disasters. Under Phase I, a minimal viable application will be developed in order to prototype our approach for multiple HAZMAT scenarios and multiple responders? roles.
The proposed research project is designed to leverage Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technologies to assess and develop the most important skills that contribute to effective performance among emergency responders in biosafety response and cleanup. Our concept is characterized as an Advanced Training Technology (ATT) product that will help prepare emergency responders to efficiently and quickly address any biosafety risks such as spills or man- made HAZMAT disasters. Our proposed VR/AR-based system will be designed to evaluate and enhance those skills that emergency responders need to acquire in order to better deal with these situations.