University of Exeter develops VR training for nuclear safety and counter-terrorism policing

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The University of Exeter in the UK is developing new virtual reality (VR) training that could boost nuclear safety and counter-terrorism policing.

Researchers at the university are creating VR training to help staff at nuclear decommissioning sites use protective suits and perform hazard awareness training.

They are also working on an app to help police officers train for anti-terror operations, such as searching properties and safety in crowds. This training is intended to help police officers develop mental and physical skills in a safe and effective manner.

Both of these projects involve the development of highly realistic VR training using gaming software and head-mounted displays. They are also based on the research findings and methods from a group of research psychologists at the University of Exeter.

In the nuclear project, the team at the university is developing a device that helps workers to learn how to dress themselves in safety equipment, and navigate through hazardous environments.

“Training in nuclear environments can be expensive and dangerous,” explained Dr Sam Vine of the University of Exeter. “Our training helps trainees to effectively use their safety equipment, which is so important in radioactive environments.”

“Virtual reality technology is revolutionising the way training is performed, and we are performing extensive research to understand how it is best used for maximum effects on learning.”

“Around the world, accidents in the nuclear and other high-risk industries are often due to the incorrect use of safety equipment.”

“Training people to use their safety equipment properly, and to learn the appropriate steps in a safe and controlled environment, could prevent accidents and even save lives.”

“The protective equipment used in the nuclear industry (such as air-fed suits) is expensive and often disposable, and so virtual reality can offer training which is cost efficient, as well as safe and effective.”

Dr David Harris, also of the University of Exeter, has been awarded a UK Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to work on police VR training.

The fellowships, which are offered by the Government Office for Science and administered by the Royal Academy of Engineering, are a vital link between academia and the intelligence community, according to the University of Exeter.

Harris said: “Both visual attention and an individual’s reaction to stressful situations are critical to police performance, but to date there has been little research on how these abilities can be developed using VR.”

“We aim to examine how VR can be used to train counter terrorism police officers to improve visual attention and control stress responses.”

Exeter researchers are working with Cineon Training on the project.

The research team is made up of academics and industry experts with experience of VR simulation, the psychology of learning and an understanding of technical processes such as nuclear decommissioning.

The anti-terrorism training is being developed for the Metropolitan Police, with funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering.