EXCLUSIVE: Counter Terrorism Officers Being Trained with Virtual Reality

EXCLUSIVE: Counter Terrorism Officers Being Trained with Virtual Reality


Most of us know about virtual and augmented reality due to the popularity of it in video games and movie theaters. But virtual reality is being used to train counter terrorism officers.

Training is through classrooms and online exercises, with real-world training scenarios. New technology is helping trainees with their decision making, situational awareness, and emotional resilience during a dangerous, threat-to-life scenarios. What is the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality? Virtual reality puts you into a digital world that becomes the only thing you can see. Augmented reality projects digital information over the real world, like Pokémon you can catch on your phone.The Automated Serious Game Scenario Generator for Mixed Reality Training (AUGGMED) has created an online multi-user training platform for joint first responders and counter-terrorism training. By using virtual reality, it allows trainees to perform exercises inside of a virtual reconstruction of the real world while interacting with virtual civilians and terrorists. On the flip side, augmented reality allows the trainees to see and interact with virtual terrorist and civilians within the real world. A three-year, €5.5m project was developed under the European Commission’s Horizon 3030 program, with a design that is accessible, adoptable, and easy to use.

“It offers them new ways to learn decision-making skills, emotional management techniques and analytical thinking while under pressure,” said Richard de Silva, Defencel IQ.

Security officers with the Piraeus Port Authority in Greece used AUGGMED to train for terrorist-related threats. Half of the officers used the augmented reality, while the others used virtual reality and worked together to respond to a terrorist incident. AUGGMED has also been used to help improve emergency service work across Europe and has been used by British police officers for critical incident response training.

This year the Pennsylvania Police were awarded a grant to help develop VR training. The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Justice Assistance Grant is giving the department in Scranton a chance to set up a new simulator that will offer a 360-degree field of view thanks to borderless screens, along with five digital cameras. This opportunity is giving police a chance to train in numerous situations in a near lifelike experience. VR training is growing in popularity so much that even the Idaho State Police are looking into the technology for recruitment.

AUGGMED is aiming to develop more types of “serious games” for VR and AR platforms, which can be used by a single person or by numerous people in cooperative training. The platform will allow users to train in limitless VR situations. There are also a lot of benefits to training with AUGGMED technology including being more cost effective, helping keep staff up to date on training, and it’s the most immersive way to train next to real events.

“Serious gaming platforms have been used by militaries for years, including the multi-service Virtual Battlespace software used extensively by NATO nations, and the Harbour Protection Table Top-Exercise employed for maritime security training,” said Silva.

So far three pilot projects have been used to evaluate AUGGMED’s efficiency. The first pilot allowed the West Yorkshire Police force to train armed officers in scenarios related to a firearms assault and the second enabled the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) to virtually investigate a suspicious package, involving paramedics in post-explosion scenarios.

The last pilot was a joint multi-scenario training session for the Piraeus Port Authority and the local police where AUGGMED created virtual bombs and attackers for the Greek security units to find and neutralize in real space. MR. AUGGMED has one final test planned for later this year in Brussels.

So far, tests have proved that AUGGMED has what it takes to help prepare Europe’s first responders for their jobs and help improve individual and team skills.