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VRAI Ltd and Tyndall National Institute

The STRESSES and EMOTIONS people go through when working in high risk environments such as military, first responders and heavy engineering, can now be monitored thanks to cutting edge research.

Dublin-based VRAI is using artificial intelligence and 360-degree virtual reality to improve safety in hazardous environments including war zones and off-shore wind farms.

The VR training product called Hazardous Environment Awareness Training (HEAT), currently uses a combination of VR, sensors in the VR headset and AI technology to provide more authentic, memorable and measurable training. This new piece of research can add more data to monitor people's stress and anxiety while they are carrying out these hazardous activities.

The firm has been working with Tyndall National Institute in Cork and the Celtic Advanced Life Science Innovation Network (CALIN) to develop a unique set of monitoring devices.

“It can be difficult to replicate what it’s like to be in the environment,” said Pat O’Connor, managing director of VRAI. “For far too long emotion, stress and anxiety hasn’t been addressed. We may be able to complete a task but may be screaming anxiety inside at the same time”.

“There’s often a difference between how we learn and how we are trained. With high-hazard environments it’s difficult”. “VR allows people to be trained better. We are individuals and we learn differently”.

He added: “We put together a proposal to look at what type of emotions are important to measure in high-risk environments”. "We believe that for training for hazardous environments to be effective is must be a blend of authentic, memorable and measurable. “We use innovative techniques to blend 360 video with high quality 3D models. We use storytelling techniques to create memorable moments in the training and we then use data science techniques to ensure measurability of training".

An example he used was firefighters attending the scene of a fatal crash with the added emotional element of seeing a wedding dress on the back seat, suggesting the victim was about to get married. This emotional connection with the training creates deeper learning for the participants.

Dr Eamonn Hawe, programme manager at Tyndall, said: “CALIN offers a unique opportunity for Irish and Welsh SMEs to access the research centres’ infrastructure and expertise allowing SMEs to carry out cutting edge research”

Tyndall worked with VRAI to review the suitability of currently available sensors which could measure stress that meet VRAI’s needs and identified how these devices could be integrated into VRAI’s product.

The next phase over 18 months would be to incorporate existing sensor devices into the VRAI product portfolio.

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