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    Virtual Reality Training, Real-World Results

    Virtual Reality Training, Real-World Results

    Courtesy Photo | Examples of interior items allowed in the subterranean tunnels.... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Chemical and Biological Technologies Department

    To help fulfill its mission enabling warfighters to combat and win against CB threats, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) Chemical and Biological Technologies Department in its role as the Joint Science and Technology Office (JSTO) worked with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and its annual summer Intern Contest to develop a VR capability to enhance CB mission readiness. DTRA-JSTO challenged the PNNL subject matter experts (SMEs) and three groups of interns to deliver their most innovative VR solutions to a specific CB problem and create a subset of the objectives that is a bit beyond what they could realistically achieve within six weeks. Throughout the contest, DTRA-JSTO Science and Technology Managers (STMs) compared the interns’ different approaches to the same challenge parameters and evaluated each group on technical and presentation metrics.

    An advantage of VR training environments is they can be used anywhere at any time as a convenient and less expensive option when in-person training is limited. But the challenge for the interns was to create a new kind of VR environment with a reconfigurable subterranean setting, allowing projection of a CB incident and immersive consequence-realization training. The interns were to focus their application development to go beyond knowledge training and into enhancing warfighter readiness to assist in mission preparation and planning. The trainers would be able to modify and reconfigure scenario details in a flexible VR training module that:
    • Adds replay values
    • Suits different training objectives
    • Helps prepare the warfighters for various missions

    Objectives for summer project development:
    • Produce a single-player, VR-based training tool
    • Focus on a subterranean tunnel environment
    • Allow a trainer view for scenario setup
    • Allow a first-person view for the trainee
    • Create After Action Review functions
    CB Scenario
    • Capable of recognizing the Hazard Prediction and Assessment Capability tool that provides atmospheric transport and dispersion predictions
    • Support missions such as site exploitation, rescue, or passing through
    • Material options: sarin (nerve agent, military designation GB), chlorine (type of choking agent, designated Cl), and VX nerve agent
    CB Effects
    • Incorporate agent and concentration-dependent health and human effects
    • Depict Joint Chemical Agent Detector (JCAD) sensor with concentration-dependent response

    The first step toward creating this VR environment was to integrate the atmospheric transport and dispersion (T&D) models along with health and human effects (H&HE) models that DTRA-JSTO has already developed. DTRA-JSTO executed projects to validate and verify the models, which are valuable assets that trainers can further leverage beyond common applications in hazard situational awareness. With the T&D models, the VR environment can render CB hazards more realistically rather than just animated. The hazard plume’s virtual effects on trainee avatars require the H&HE models to put hazard concentration into context with close-to-reality effects that allow the trainees to realize the consequences of CB hazard exposure and their own actions.

    DTRA-JSTO wanted trainer-versus-trainee views so that the trainers can adjust the virtual environment and CB scenario depending on mission objectives. After the trainer sets up the scenario, the trainee’s avatar walks through the environment in their own view and experiences health effects from exposure to the CB threat materials.
    The VR applications provide both prebuilt tunnels and tunnel pieces so the trainer can reconfigure the area. There are also items such as laboratory equipment, barrels, and gas tanks. When setting up a CB scenario, the trainers can select where and when to release three different chemical threats:
    • Sarin, a nerve agent with military designation GB
    • Chlorine, a type of choking agent designated Cl
    • VX nerve agent

    The release of the hazardous material is based on simulations using Indoor Building Hazard, which is an Incident Source Module that uses CONTAM—a multizone, indoor air-quality and ventilation analysis computer program—as a submodel of the Hazard Prediction and Assessment Capability tool that provides atmospheric T&D predictions in the event of hazardous atmospheric releases.

    The trainers give the trainees mission types such as site exploitation, recon, rescue, or pass through and place various pieces of protective equipment in the scenario for the trainees to select from. When trainee avatars encounter a hazard plume without adequate protection, their health effects are based on Acute Exposure Guideline Levels. The trainee receives feedback such as blurred vision that mimics smoke screening. There are also panting and coughing sound effects that help create the immersive experience.
    Within six weeks, the interns demonstrated the possibility of creating a CB scenario based on validated T&D models and presented concentration-dependent health effects. The competition was close and there was a winner, but DTRA-JSTO directed PNNL SMEs to combine the interns’ three applications into a proof-of-concept tool for the portfolio area of Virtual Reality-Based CBD Readiness Preparation for end users to identify capabilities of interest.

    DTRA-JSTO is also starting a full-scope project to integrate Joint Outdoor-indoor Urban Large Eddy Simulation for hazard T&D and Chemical-Biological Operational Degradation Analysis Human Effects (FXCODA) into the Virtual Tactical Assault Kit (VTAK). Recreating hazards and effects in the virtual world for immersive and realistic experiences provides an opportunity for modelers to identify capability gaps.

    STM: Chia Wei Tsai,



    Date Taken: 05.07.2021
    Date Posted: 05.07.2021 16:41
    Story ID: 395951
    Location: FORT BELVOIR, VA, US 

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