Now is the time to train with virtual terrorists!

If someday it’s said that here is your chance to save an airport from terrorists, escape insurgents in South Sudan, and rescue civilians in an underground station; don’t be stunned as now it’s all doable in one morning. All because of the modern technology! the ability to recreate these scenarios within virtual and augmented reality is here, and it’s being used to help train counter-terrorism officers and aid staff.

People are usually seen getting confused between virtual and augmented reality therefore simply to clarify, during a virtual reality experience, you enter a digital world that becomes all you’ll be able to see. In contrast, augmented reality projects digital data over the real world. So, augmented reality can be anything from a projection of a recordfront of you to catching a Pokemon within the workplace.

The AUGGMED (Automated Serious Game Scenario Generator for Mixed Reality Training) project has developed an online multi-user training platform for joint first responder and counter-terrorism training. Earlier such training would be provided through classroom and online exercises and real-world training scenarios. But with these new technologies, we’re able to enhance decision making, situational awareness and emotional resilience during dangerous, threat-to-life scenarios.

VR allows trainees to perform exercises within virtual reconstructions of the real world while interacting with virtual civilians and terrorists. However, augmented reality allows trainees to see and interact with virtual terrorists and civilians within the real world. Both technologies enable trainees to improve their decision making and gives them an experience of performing within stressful situations.

Recently, security in Greece used AUGGMED to train for potential terrorist-related threats. With AR, on-site trainees in Piraeus worked alongside other trainees who were experiencing and responding to the same scenario through VR. Together they had to effectively respond to a terrorist incident. This meant they had to assess the nature of the incident, before ensuring the safety of nearby civilians and neutralising the threat.

With the creation of such platforms, trainees from multiple agencies can train at the same time and this enables collaborative training between different disciplines, such as the police force, security personnel and paramedics. AUGGMED has been used to improve emergency service work across Europe and has been used by British police officers for critical incident response training.

Not just security agencies but non-governmental organisations and humanitarian agencies are also exploring the use of VR to improve training. Earlier a VR training simulation was created for the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM). This Advanced Training, Learning And Scenario (ATLAS) simulation was designed to train civilian staff who work in dangerous environments to respond effectively to life-threatening situations.

While certain sectors such as military and aviation have already been using these technologies for quite some time, it is only now that discussions around the usage of virtual and augmented reality technologies have reached the more traditional sectors such as law enforcement, construction and even food safety. Serious games and virtual reality will one day be ubiquitous within training packages. But before then, the benefits of these technologies need to be explored and discussed further, because they hold remarkable potential.

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