VICTEAMS: Virtual Reality (VR) training for emergencies

UTC’s Heudiasyc Lab has been coordinating, since 2014, the VICTEAMS Project, involving for the design – with colleagues of the Computer Sciences & Applications Lab in Mechanical and Engineering Sciences (CEA-LIST), of the Armed Forces Biomed Lab and the private company Reviatech - of a training simulator for emergency medical service (EMS) teams. It is a tool assembled in a close collaboration with the professional doctors and staff at the French Army’s major Val-de-Grace Hospital and with the Paris City Firefighting Brigades, also partners in this project.

VICTEAMS: Virtual Reality (VR) training for emergencies

The aim of VICTEAMS is to train medical practitioners who take charge of emergency situations in how to manage teams and communicate efficiently with numerous victims around and in such a way as not to require setting up systematic full-scale ‘live’ exercises, which are difficult to create properly. Wearing a VR helmet, the ‘player’ (alone) is positioned in an Advanced Op-Tent with a team of medics and, of course, an influx of wounded persons needing care. There is a lot of noise, missing material, logistics problems and misunderstandings … in short, all that is needed to reproduce an environment with a high level of operational stress. The vital parameters of the casualties evolve as a function of what the player decides and does. This software package imitating, as it can, various catastrophes and/or terrorist attacks, is original in that is brings in other self-standing virtual figures. Each member of the medical teams present have a given level of skills, a certain ease (or lack of) in communicating and a variable level of resistance to stressful conditions. Their individual stress levels are portrayed on their faces and in the accuracy of their moves and gestures. Lauriane Huguet-Morel, currently doing her PhD on self-standing virtual figures with the VICTEAMS research group, adds, “We also aim to reproduce errors, omissions, imprecisions committed by team-members, in order to create a situation even closer to ‘reality’ in the field of events. And to be able to computerize non optimal human behaviours is quite a challenge in its own right”.

Simulating team operations

The UTC-Heudiasyc Lab has accumulated over 10 years’ experience in VR environments specific to training purposes. Following the development of tools for aeronautical assembly operatives, for submarine maintenance crew members and for company staff involved in maintenance/dismantling of potential dangerous industrial sites, the VICTEAMS Project now introducing striking new features with relationships and human factors to its teamwork simulation packages. As Domitile Lourdeaux, scientific leader for this research programme, explains: “We had previously introduced stress factors in our simulations, but here with VICTEAMS, we reproduce group actions, and inter-related reactions of the figures at play”. Inasmuch as the scenario is not pre-defined, the ‘game’ gains in its degree of interactivity. “In contradistinction with other software training backaches and video games, here we have no written script. The figures can change their individual behaviours as a function of what the main player decides and does”. The level of complexity offered allows us to assess the quality/relevance of operational decisions but also to judge the way the player expresses himself (herself) and how h/she manages the team. The results from psychological cognition and computer modelling of professional environmental realities, VICTEAMS combines the skills and inputs of computer scientist, ergonomists and medical practitioners. A ‘demo’ version was made prepared by summer 2016; the finalized software package is planned for ready for release in 2018, providing for a complete VR emergency training setting, for up to 7 player/VR figures.