Training for our military to help them prepare for whatever they may face is going increasingly high tech.
For many reasons, simulation and technology-based trainings are gaining in popularity with the military as they have for civilian EMS market.
“Both military and EMS have the same related pain points as it pertains to equipment costs, proficiency operating the equipment, and being able to get training across to a large group of people,” explains Jared Akers, a retired Navy Command Master Chief and Leader of Strategic Relations at VRpatients. “Given the inability to easily pull a bunch of people together, having a web-based option to be able to do training and assessment versus having to come in person can be a big help. It just makes sense for virtual reality training to become an integral part of the military training landscape,” he added.
Akers spent 20 years in the Navy. During his last tour, he was the Command Master Chief of a trauma hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan. For many years, he was tasked with training, staffing, and instruction of several different types of Navy medics. Now he is using his experience at VRpatients.
VRpatients immerses students into virtual environments to give them real life training without real life consequences. The software allows customization and modification to create locations that students might encounter like an alleyway, apartment, street corner, and more.
But military conflicts and medical responses don’t usually happen in these types of locations. They more often occur in deserts, jungles, the back of a military aircraft, in a remote field hospital, etc.
“In real life, it is expensive and problematic to try to create those types of environments in a realistic way,” Akers says. “If I want to create a scene where someone is taking care of a patient in a jungle somewhere, if I don’t have access to a jungle, the training just wouldn’t happen.”
Soon, VRpatients will be able to make that kind of training possible.
“When we have a demand signal and we have somebody that needs it, the ability to create military scenarios is accomplishable in a fairly short amount of time,” Akers says. “There’s an endless number of environments that scenarios can be created in and operated in.”
Akers uses an example of taking care of a patient in the back of a Blackhawk helicopter, something most military medics cannot train in or if they can, they do not have repeated opportunities to practice. Creating a scenario where space is limited and looks and feels real would allow for better training and practice. It would be possible to basically put a Blackhawk helicopter into a classroom anywhere the world.
Using VRpatients will also solve a portability issue which will be helpful for military clients.
“Because of the footprint, size, and cost of virtual reality technology, it’s extremely deployable. We can put 10 VR headsets in the middle of Dubai at a very small footprint and at a very low cost and without logistics issues,” explains Akers. “Whereas if we were trying to send just one simulator to a base for training purposes, that becomes extremely expensive and is logistically a nightmare.”
Another benefit of a technology-based training is the ability for repetitive instruction.
“One of the only ways that you really have to mitigate the lack of experience with something is to train repetitively in an activity, so that when you do you do it, you feel like you’ve been there before and are doing it like it’s natural,” Akers says. With regular simulation, it is often too expensive or time consuming to repeat a training exercise and give everyone the reps they need to feel comfortable.
VR allows an infinite number of training repetitions.
“Just think about anything that you wanted to be really good at. The key component is to train and to do it over and over. Practice makes perfection. It’s the same in medicine when it comes to taking care of people and managing casualties.”
Using VR also gets a student’s adrenaline pumping, which is sometimes not the case with other types of training. Akers says it’s a misconception that most military training is high impact and gets the heart pumping.
“That’s absolutely not the case. As a matter of fact, more time is just spent in training and not really in those high adrenaline and high energy places so it’s still necessary to have that kind of immersive experience where that would take place.”
He says now that some American military involvement has ceased around the world, people are not getting an opportunity to experience real life warfare and instead are back to training for what comes next.
“Finding training techniques that can accomplish [the immersive reactions] are more important now than they’ve ever been because we don’t have a trauma hospital in middle of Afghanistan to send our people to and go cut their teeth on real life stuff.”
It is different from a civilian paramedic or EMT who can be in an ambulance each day.
“The military doesn’t have that kind of mission. They’re either engaged in war or event or they’re training and preparing for when they’re call to do it. The military benefits even more than the civilian market from these hyper-realistic training pieces.”
A military medical treatment facility should soon begin using some elements of the VRpatients platform.
“We’re looking at it as a pilot program and a proof of concept,” Akers says, adding as that usage expands, VRpatients can adapt and expand along with it. “My wish for military training is that we push quality, high-value training as far forward as we possibly can. I think that this kind of technology gives us an opportunity to do that in a meaningful way that we haven’t seen with our current way of military training.”