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VR-enabled games infiltrate govt markets

by Tajna Biscevic •
Free resource

‘Gamified’ training and education in public sector fields like emergency services, health, and defence are becoming increasingly common, driving demand for enabling technologies such as virtual reality software.

Broadly, ‘gamification’ is used to describe the application of game design elements to non-game tasks in the interests of motivating participation, engagement, or some other desired response.

In some areas of government, training and education games are becoming increasingly sophisticated. In October 2017, the Department of Defence announced a $2.2 million contract with University of Newcastle through the Defence Innovation Hub to “explore the development of enhanced resilience training for ADF personnel through a set of virtual reality based training sessions involving controlled exposure to adverse environments.”

The solution will allow soldiers to experience training simulations replicated from real-world scenarios. Soldiers are measured with inbuilt biometrics capabilities, which allows participants' breathing to be measured to train them to control their breathing at a rate that enables optimal decision-making.

Defence also uses U.S. firm VirTra’s virtual reality training program. The simulator features an open five sided screen which engulfs the participant like “a wrap-around cave” displaying branching live action videos which an operator chooses based on the responses of those in the simulation. Real weapons, modified with lasers, can be deployed in the simulation, and the floor is wired to emit sound and vibration. The software allows users to replay, which is useful in the debriefing and assessment of trainees during the learning process.

Defence has been using the firm since 2009. VirTra also supply to the Australian Border Force, the New South Wales Police Force, Victoria Police, and the South Australia Police Department. The Department of Immigration and Border Control has a training simulators contract worth $1.8 million with the company.

Emergency services also use games for training and education purposes. The Australian rescue agency Mines Rescue Services deploys virtual reality technology in their gamified training program. The program is an underground whole of mine training simulator, covering over 50km, that is equipped with a 360 degree theatre based on real terrain data.

The tertiary sector is also investing in these game-based technologies. Earlier this year Australia’s University of Newcastle (UON) School of Nursery and Midwifery started using virtual reality enabled games to allow second year students to practice resuscitating newborns.

Gamification can be used for purposes outside of education and training. For example, a city council in Massachusetts released a community plan-it social-media based game, “What’s the Point?”, in 2013 to gather feedback from one of its low-income Latino neighborhoods who otherwise would not participate in civic life due to a language barrier.

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