A new virtual reality (VR) software solution developed by RiVR has set its sights on providing the UK’s fire and rescue services with photo-realistic training environments which could help save taxpayers millions of pounds. The Warwickshire-based company have produced a program that allows for real-world scanning using lasers and high-definition photography to create fully 360-degree, interactive environments for use with VR headsets.
Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service have invested £50,000 (GBP) into the software, which RiVR has used to build a virtual burned-out warehouse which is fully interactive, replicating the sort of training scenarios fire-fighters are regularly exposed to. Alongside this, the company have also produced a number of 360-degree videos to help train fire engine drivers. A typical real-life training scenario costs around £8,000 (GBP), so using VR as training environment is a much more cost effective solution.
The software, which RiVR hopes will be adopted across the UK, allows for trainees to walk around a warehouse and inspect the street outside, pick up objects, find evidence, assess casualties and even listen/feel to see if they still have a pulse. While this is all happening, a trainer can watch the trainee’s every move on a table or desktop computer, seeing their the trainee in both first-person, third-person and even a bird’s eye view. This means that the trainer is able to give real-time feedback that can be key to ensuring effective training.
“When fire services stage a real-life scenario like a fire in a container, it costs around £8,000 every time they do it. They need to provide staff, pay for fuel and put a fire truck on standby,” said RiVR CEO Alex Harvey. “The software we’ve produced saves each fire brigade that amount every time they press the reset button.”
The chance for RiVR and Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service to work together came from a chance meeting over 18 months ago.
“We’ve been shadowing fire service staff for the last 18 months, going out in fire engines and understanding exactly how fire-fighters are trained. We needed to see it in real life for us to replicate it in virtual reality. However, this isn’t about replacing real-world training. It’s about complementing it and enhancing the way humans learn. We estimate that 70 per cent of all fire service training can be completed to a high standard using VR. It’s a unique medium which allows trainees to access a safe scenario for what is an inherently dangerous job.”
The work by RiVR in Leicestershire has lead to the National Fire Chiefs Council recommending the software be adopted by all UK fire and rescue services and, to date, 30 out of the 47 services have signed up to it.
“There are other people creating VR worlds, but they can look like something out of The Simpsons. When you feel like you are in a computer game, you get gameplay results,” said Alex. “When a scenario looks and feels real, you get much better results because people behave more like they would in a real-life situation – it’s all about immersion.”
As RiVR and Leicestershire fire and rescue service continue to work together to develop new scenarios for training, VRFocus will be sure to bring you all the latest.