October 1, 2020 5:21 pm
The future of forensic fire and police investigation training is now within easier financial reach of cash-strapped emergency service budgets — thanks to a ground-breaking virtual reality (VR) software that provides photo-realistic, three-dimensional VR environments which could save the taxpayer millions of pounds.
Warwickshire-based RiVR (Reality in Virtual Reality) has developed a ‘ready player one-style’ totally-immersive programme which scans any real-world scene using lasers and high-definition photography (photogrammetry) and displays it as a 360° interactive environment, via a VR room scale headset.
RiVR, who are working with serving UK fire investigators and CSI personnel, has invested tens of thousands of pounds in creating a fully-interactive laboratory which enables the business to develop detailed virtual investigation scenarios, including full interior and exterior viewpoints of, for example, domestic murder scenes or a burned-out warehouse or bedroom
RiVR Co founder Alex Harvey, who previously worked for ground-breaking computer games developer Codemasters, said: “This totally immersive system allows the user to interact with all of the objects in their line of sight and treat it exactly as they would a real fire or crime scene. It teaches them everything from spatial awareness to offering them the ability to fail a task, in order that they can learn from this experience much more effectively than other mediums.”
The scenarios allow trainees to teleport across spaces, reach out and pick up vital evidence for closer scrutiny, make use of virtual sniffer dogs to check if accelerant has been used in arson cases, take photographs in VR, and even provide the ability to check if a victim has a pulse — and all without leaving the classroom, Police or fire station.
Alex continues: “Every officer who has tried the system says it is like they are physically there because they have become fully immersed in the scene and the drama, picking up items and clues, without leaving the classroom, giving them with an actual memory of the training scenario.
“The potential cost savings for firefighters, police or indeed any industry requiring specialists undertaking intensive and dangerous in-the-room training, are limitless,” he said.
“When fire services stage a real-life scenario like a fire in a container, it costs around £8,000 every time. They need to provide staff, pay for fuel and put a fire truck on standby, whereas the software we’ve produced saves each brigade that amount every time they press the reset button.
“In the UK, with more than 80 fire services and police constabularies, savings on training using crime scene reconstruction could be in excess of £2 million per year — and that is a conservative figure based upon three sets of training each year.
“This is a real plus for the emergency workers we have been speaking to, who are all under extreme financial pressures because of reductions in funding.
“Which is why we’ve been researching and learning for the last two years, going out in fire engines and understanding exactly how fire-fighters are trained. We needed to see it in real life for us to replicate it in virtual reality.
While all of this is happening, the instructor can watch the trainee’s every move on an iPad or desktop PC via the virtual Reality Monitor, RiVR’s bespoke software, which shows what they are doing from a first person, third person and bird’s eye view, allowing them to give real-time and post analysis feedback on how the trainee has dealt with the scene.
But now the technology is going global as the UK company launches RiVR Investigate to showcase its scenarios for firefighters and arson investigators in the US at the keynote Fire Department Instructor’s Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis and the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) showcase summit in Miami during 2019.
“This isn’t about replacing real-world training — it’s about complementing it and enhancing the way humans learn. We estimate that 70 per cent of all fire service training can be completed to a high standard using VR. It’s a unique medium which allows trainees to access a safe scenario for what is an inherently dangerous job,” added Alex.
“When a scenario looks and feels real, you get much better results because people behave more like they would in a real-life situation — it’s all about immersion and muscle memory.”
“It’s an incredibly exciting thing to be a part of and the whole team is passionate about enhancing the way humans learn using this technology,” he added.
This video shows 3 different fire investigation professionals having their first time in the VR training experience.
In this video we watch as Jason Dean spent 40 minutes in one of the scenarios, this is the cut down 20 minute version which shows in amazing detail how quickly people get immersed in the scenes and start to treat them as if they are in the real environment.
For more information on RiVR Investigate and to be part of this exciting new training programme please visit the Investigate website https://rivr.uk/investigations/