Simulation-Based Training: Use of Virtual Environments in Diverse Contexts

Hands holding virtual reality goggles with light glowing from inside, photo by  Daniel Krasoń / Adobe Stock

Photo by Daniel Krasoń / Adobe Stock

As virtual environments have improved in accessibility, scale, and fidelity, the viability and variety of applications for simulation-based training have increased. Concurrently, training continues to be a high priority in a wide variety of fields, including manufacturing, law enforcement, defense, and healthcare. Technology—such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and serious virtual games—supports training needs in these fields with new and innovative ways to reduce costs and improve effectiveness.

RAND is exploring the use of simulation-based training with projects including evaluating the effectiveness of technology, integrating training simulators, and development of new virtual systems for training.

Ongoing Work

Improved Officer Decision-Making and Stress Management with Virtual Environments

A police officer escorts a man in handcuffs into a police car. Photo by kali9 / Getty Images

Photo by kali9 / Getty Images

Policing can involve complex interactions between officers and community-members. These interactions often occur in dangerous and stressful situations that require officers to make rapid decisions to mitigate escalation and prevent harm. This kind of decision-making requires effective training that mirrors the sources of real-world stress. Consequently, police departments use physical mock-ups and large-scale simulators, but such facilities can be expensive to obtain and maintain, and are not always accessible to officers, especially in smaller departments.

Virtual reality (VR) and gaming technology offer low-cost and accessible alternatives. This pilot study is 1) developing a framework for implementing game-based, VR technology and assessment methods that map directly to training goals, and 2) designing and testing a virtual prototype to train officers to respond to stressful job situations. The resulting approach combines interactive gaming environments that respond to a user’s actions, and low-cost tools for creating realistic 3D environments. Ultimately, this framework and software will be applicable to training design and delivery for a range of situations that officers encounter on the job. This work will eventually provide a system that can help integrate and coordinate training at departments across the country.

For more information about this project, please contact Tim Marler or Susan Straus.

Scalability and Efficacy of Serious Games for Training within the Department of Homeland Security

First responder's vehicles with lights on at night, photo by Gregor Doerr / Adobe Stock

Photo by Gregor Doerr / Adobe Stock

Emergency response training can be difficult. Challenges include a lack of time for first responders to participate in training, risks to trainees of engaging in live scenarios, costly facilities to simulate operational environments, and expensive labor to run the training.

Serious games for training (GFT), however, can help mitigate these challenges. GFT can simulate operational tasks and enable first responders to practice skills in lifelike situations without the risk of physical harm. By reducing the need for physical training facilities and labor, and by leveraging more convenient hardware like mobile devices, GFT increases accessibility to training, providing opportunities for practice when and where needed.

This project examines opportunities to leverage GFT for personnel in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other first-responder organizations.

The project consists of several tasks:

  1. identify potential uses and capabilities of GFT;
  2. identify key tasks that are common across first-responder jobs;
  3. develop a prototype mobile game for training; and
  4. conduct a cost analysis estimating potential savings for the addition of GFT to current training for first responders.

For more information about this project, please contact Tim Marler or Susan Straus.

Game-changing Technologies in European Services Sectors

Robot butler leads hotel guest to room

Ekkasit919/Getty Images

Emerging technologies have the potential to reshape and disrupt the services sectors, including arts and entertainment, education, financial services, health and social work, public administration, retail, and transport. Technologies such as advanced robotics, autonomous transport devices, blockchain, virtual and augmented reality, and wearable devices will inevitably impact on these sectors. This study examined how these technologies influence key dimensions such as employment, productivity and output, skills, working conditions and work organization.

For more information about this project, please contact Salil Gunashekar.

Read more about this project »

Completed Work

  • Healing the Invisible Wounds of War with Virtual Reality 2018

    O'Neill, S

    In this episode of the Veterans in America podcast, we hear the story of Joe Merritt, a former Marine and Army National Guard soldier, and learn about an effective evidence-based treatment for PTSD: virtual reality exposure therapy.

  • How VR and AR Could Transform the Health Sector 2018

    Knack, A

    This commentary looks at how VR and AR create new applications that support the training of medical professionals and the delivery of health services and improve the health outcomes of NHS users. However, it also considers the risk displacing workers in the health sector, including public servants in the NHS.

  • Efficacy of Educational Video Game Versus Traditional Educational Apps at Improving Physician Decision Making in Trauma Triage, Randomized Controlled Trial 2017

    Deepika Mohan, Coreen Farris, Matthew R. Rosengart, Derek C. Angus, Donald M. Yealy, David J. Wallace, Amber E. Barnato

    This study strives to determine whether a behavioral intervention delivered through a video game can improve the appropriateness of trauma triage decisions in the emergency department of non-trauma centers. Compared with apps based on traditional didactic education, exposure of physicians to a theoretically grounded video game improved triage decision making in a validated virtual simulation. Though the observed effect was large, the wide confidence intervals include the possibility of a small benefit, and the real world efficacy of this intervention remains uncertain.

  • A Preliminary Evaluation of Interactive Video Simulation Training for Campus Law Enforcement in California 2016

    Courtney Ann Kase, Karen Chan Osilla, Rachana Seelam, Michelle W. Woodbridge, Bradley D. Stein

    This report evaluates the Interactive Video Simulation Training to help campus law enforcement professionals refer and intervene with college students experiencing psychological distress.

  • SimCoach Evaluation: A Virtual Human Intervention to Encourage Service-Member Help-Seeking for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Depression. 2015

    Meeker, D., Cerully, J. L., Johnson, M., Iyer, N., Kurz, J., Scharf, D. M.

    An evaluation of SimCoach, a computer program featuring a virtual human that speaks and gestures in a video game-like interface, designed to encourage service members, especially those with signs or symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, to seek help to improve their psychological health.

  • Cataract Blindness and Simulation-Based Training for Cataract Surgeons, An Assessment of the HelpMeSee Approach 2015

    James R. Broyles, Peter Glick, Jianhui Hu, Yee-Wei Lim

    HelpMeSee Inc. (HMS) is developing an approach to surgery training and delivery that includes use of high-fidelity simulator technology and associated curricula for high-volume training, development of a system of independent private practitioners, and training where necessary of individuals without medical degrees. In this study, RAND researchers determined that the program has the potential to scale up surgical capacity rapidly and that under optimistic assumptions, the HMS program could largely close the backlog of surgical cases in the four major regions studied, resulting in 21 million cases of cataract-caused visual impairment in 2030, compared with 134 million cases under the status quo.