A project from Western Australia’s Edith Cowan University (ECU), which uses Virtual Reality (VR) to help paramedics’ deal with natural disasters and terrorist attacks, has won a prestigious technology award.
According to a recent press release, the Virtual Reality Mass Casualty Triage Simulator immerses paramedic students in confronting 360 degree VR situations to prepare them for mass casualty events.
It brings together a team from across the University including paramedicine lecturers, gaming and VR experts and motion capture specialists.
For the project, the researchers have reportedly examined how the VR experience compares to traditional methods of mass casualty training.
The traditional method utilises actors with Hollywood style make-up to simulate wounded patients.
This kind of mass casualty event training had been taught either in lectures or seminars, or by conducting live simulations.
Although live simulations give a more authentic learning experience, they require a significant amount of resources.
These include multiple actors, various settings, patient moulage, which is wound make-up, and substantial coordination of personnel.
The focus of the training
Mass casualty event training aimed to help students develop the decision making skills to operate under intense pressure. These events are chaotic and confronting.
The focus of paramedics who first arrive at the scene will not be to treat patients, but to gauge the urgency of each wounded person to decide the order of treatment when more resources arrive.
The VR training program provides users with a 360 degree fully immersive environment that they interact with using a headset and hand-held controls.
This allows the user to look around the scene in every direction, as if they are really there. The scene features actors with different injuries and in varying states of distress.
The user can interact with these actors in the simulation to get information about their vital signs, including their heart rate and breathing.
The students then have to make an assessment of each patient and assign them a priority for treatment.
The student’s immersion, performance and satisfaction with the VR simulation would be compared to a live simulation.
Doing so will verify if VR can indeed be used as an immersive and cost effective way to train for mass casualty events.
The research was funded through an AU$ 85,000 ECU Industry Collaboration grant in partnership with an integrated immersive solutions company.
Advantages of VR over live simulations
Unlike live simulations where there are variables that cannot be controlled, such as the performances of the actors, a VR experience can guarantee that each student receives the exact same experience.
Additionally, data on how people interact with the VR experience can be captured. This will allow the creators to modify and improve along the way.