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Singapore’s Multi-Sensory XR Training System

Image credit: news.nus.edu.sg
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Singapore has achieved a groundbreaking milestone by developing the world’s first Multi-Sensory XR Training System in collaboration with NUS CUTE Centre, HTX (the Home Team Science and Technology Agency), and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). This innovative system aims to revolutionise the training for civil defence officers in road traffic accident management and hazardous material (hazmat) mitigation procedures.

Current training methods for road traffic accidents and hazmat management at SCDF involve a combination of theoretical learning and practical sessions. However, practical training using scrap cars has its limitations as each car can only accommodate up to four emergency responders at a time, leading to resource inefficiency. Moreover, the use of actual chemicals for hazmat scenarios poses safety and environmental challenges.

To address these limitations and enhance the training experience, the NUS CUTE Centre partnered with HTX and SCDF to develop an Extended Reality (XR) system. This XR system incorporates a Multi-Sensory Augmented Virtuality Suit (MAV Suit), a Virtual Reality (VR) headset, and mock-ups of tools used in rescue scenarios. For traffic accident training, a car frame mock-up equipped with sensors and magnets provides realistic haptic feedback.

During the training, SCDF officers wear a VR headset and handle physical replicas of equipment, like a spreader cutter. This combination allows them to simulate real-life movements that are mirrored in the virtual world. The MAV Suit enhances realism further, providing sensory experiences like smell (e.g., the scent of smoke) and heat sensation.

The customisation of the XR system by the NUS CUTE Centre enables SCDF officers to undergo immersive training that prepares them for real-life operations. The realistic and interactive nature of the system allows officers to experiment, learn, and adapt without constraints posed by the physical world. The potential cross-cutting benefits of this immersive training can be extended to other Home Team Departments.

Dr Saravana Kumar from HTX highlights the continuous efforts to develop novel senses and actuators to enhance training realism and trainees’ situational awareness via simulation. This ongoing collaboration with partners aims to create a more comprehensive and effective training platform.

The XR and VR training systems cover various fire and rescue scenarios, as well as incidents involving hazardous materials. The immersive virtual environment offers trainees a dynamic and effective learning experience. The enhanced realism complements existing theory and practical training, allowing trainees to refine their skills in a safe and controlled setting.

The CUTE Centre team designed the VR scenarios based on SCDF’s curriculum, tailoring them to address specific training needs. The scenarios include various elements such as the type of vehicle, entrapment conditions, extrication techniques, and types of hazardous materials.

Beyond realistic training, the XR system provides a standardised platform for assessing trainees’ performance objectively, consistently, and accurately. This assessment tool enhances the overall training process and enables SCDF to monitor and improve the readiness of their officers effectively.

The deployment of the XR training system at the Civil Defence Academy represents a significant advancement in civil defence training methods. The system’s potential impact on enhancing the skills and preparedness of officers is promising. Additionally, the success of this world’s first Multi-Sensory XR Training System sets a precedent for other regions to adopt similar technologies, thereby improving emergency response and disaster management capabilities on a global scale.

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