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IRD VR training and simulation

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The project is a VR simulation training tool for police recruits to interact with dangerous active shooting situations. So that it is broadly accessible as a learning tool without the limitation of space and resources. Fall 2022, the Justice Insititute of British Columbia push it as an internal training tool for police courses. 

CLIENT

TIME

MY ROLE

Justice Institute of British Columbia

2022, 7 months

Product Designer/ User Experience Researcher/ User Interface Designer

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My Responsibilities

I worked as a lead user interface designer and product designer.

 

  • Collaborated with engineers, project managers, and artists to create a new virtual reality training tool for JIBC recruits to respond to shooting emergencies, "IRD VR training and simulation".

  • Led teams to research and communicate user pain points to understand user motivations, triggers, desires, goals, and competitor analysis

  • Create and design VR features, product storylines, user flows, wireframes, user interfaces, and interactive prototypes.

  • Lead and design user testing for Police Recruit, Police Mentor, and Justice Institute of British Columbia’s Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation, in-depth interviews with user questionnaires, and validate product usability based on results and obtain recommendations for developable iterations of the product.

  • Assist project managers in planning project milestones, writing final documents and blogs, and communicating product scope and usage guidelines to customers and stakeholders.

Problem Statement

Immediate Rapid Deployment (IRD) is the swift and immediate deployment of law enforcement resources to ongoing, life-threatening situations where delayed deployment could otherwise result in death or great bodily harm to innocent persons.

For the police recruits, it is mandatory for them to train in Immediate Rapid Deployment(IRD). However, In face-to-face IRD training, using actors and simulated ammunition is complex and expensive and is currently reserved for senior recruits who have completed the field training component.

Because IRD is a low-frequency, high-risk situation, however, it is important that junior recruits have a basic level of knowledge if they are required to respond to an active shooter situation. 

 

Therefore, Junior recruits still lack an approachable, easy setup, entry-level training opportunity to help them gain an initial understanding of IRD training.

Purpose of the Solution

Deconstructing the need of a police recruit to organize the interactions in a way that provides them with a highly immersive, intuitive, educational, and accessible experience of IRD training.

Current Pain Point

  • In face-to-face Immediate Rapid Deployment (IRD) training, using actors and simulated ammunition is complex and expensive and is currently reserved for senior recruits who have completed the field training component.

  • Because IRD is a low-frequency, high-risk situation, however, it is important that junior recruits have a basic level of knowledge if they are required to respond to an active shooter situation. 

  • Targeted users: Police recruits are not familiar with IRD processes.

Emphasized the User Needs and Analyze the Existing Product

I conducted background research, technical research, and competitive research to analyze and learn from existing tools and applications for police training. The existing two simulations currently popular in IRD training are 

 

  • video training simulation by VirTra. 

  • In-person training conducted by the police academy or a police station.

 

Then I analyze their advantages and disadvantages:

Competitor Analyze 

Video training tool

https://youtu.be/fXwwHNLp260

 

Pros​​

  • low cost of the training 

  • Repeatable for practice 

  • Variety of scenarios 

  • Easy to access the individual training detailed data and recall the experience 

Cons

  • No in-person interaction 

  • Not enough realistic feeling with a 2D screen

  • Everything is pre-recorded, with no variation of NPCs’ reactions.

  • High cost for the training equipment and video recording

  • Hard to evaluate the teamwork result

Real-life actor session

https://youtu.be/eBb1385m_gQ

 

Pros

  • Most realistic in the actual environment

  • Able to evaluate the teamwork result

  • Easy to get recruited in the stress management mindset

Cons

  • High cost of the actor hiring and training

  • Hard to Arrange and coordinate everyone

  • Hard to repeat the training at a low cost

  • Hard to calculate the time usage and everything else in the action 

  • Hard to record the individual action

Our team then decided to use VR as a training tool because it is low-cost (399 CAD), and reusable. It can be used as a learning tool to observe police recruit behavior and performance, is easy to use after onboarding, and is most likely to create an immersive feeling with the sound, 3D environment, and interactive NPCs.

To better understand how VR products can focus more on solving the current specific problems of IRD training, I analyzed and tested the existing VR shooting application: Gun Club VR, we found that the user experience of the existing VR shooting game was not suitable for police officers as a training tool.

 

The Gun Club VR is exciting and it allows the player to try different guns and experience the shooting target. However, 

 

  • The target user is not police recruits

  • Severe motion sickness caused by moving with an analog joystick

  • Users cannot move with both feet in the 3D scene

  • No real NPCs, only cardboard character targets, unable to interact with characters

  • No ambient noise and injured victim to simulate the real scenario

  • No tense and stressful atmosphere

  • No decision-making or strategy to learn during the game

  • The game requires a complex operation in VR which is very difficult for VR novice

Key Features

Based on research and analysis of competing products, bringing the most realistic feeling to the user can help exercise the police recruits' ability to resist stress and decision making. In addition, considering the possibility that police recruits are unfamiliar with new VR products, we believe that onboarding is essential.

 

We empathize with the key features of our VR simulation


 

  • Learning tool 

  • Friendly to VR new hand

  • Immersive environment (sound effect/ 3D environment/ Interactable NPCs) to adapt with the real IRD scenario 

  • Exercise stress management and decision-making skills

  • Locomotion and walking by feet simulate the real environment and reduce the game feeling.

User Research 

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Expert Interview

Before putting it into production, in coordination with our client JIBC, we interviewed a Delta police officer who has a lot of experience in IRD simulation, and as an instructor of existing IRD simulation, he gave us a lot of insight and considerations for designing IRD training tool:


 

  • Stop the threat as soon as possible 

  • Stress management during the high-pressure IRD training 

  • Use strategy to interact with the active shooter and victims

  • Find the cover to keep safe

  • Give feedback when the recruit gets shot but don’t provide a “dead” option to bring them negative feelings. 

  • Environment sound and noise to bring a sense of intense 

  • Recruits need to search every corner to make sure the threat stops. 

Scenario Research

Based on the research and internal consultation with JIBC Police Academy SMEs, the office scenario was selected as the environment to be built for the IRD VR simulation. Later, we used this research to inform the phenotype of the active shooter. 

 

“According to the research from Mother Jones, a publication from the United States, for the last 10 years, more than half of the cases involved school or workplace shootings (12 and 20, respectively);”

 

“According to research from the Washington Post, from 1966 to 2021, shootings in schools and houses of worship tend to stand out in our minds, but they make up a relatively small portion of public mass shootings. More common are those in offices and retail establishments such as restaurants and stores. ”

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Non-Linear Narrative / Plot design

Based on the study results, we designed as police recruits in the office scenario will encounter various dangerous situations and the consequences of their different decisions to create a possible scenario, which will help the team better simulate the IRD experience.

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User Flow

Wireframe

Design System 

Measures We Took to Ensure a Smooth User Experience 

  • Giving users the freedom to roam the office environment autonomously.

 

  • Allowing for users to select between left- and right-hand settings. The preferred hand setting can ensure that we are meeting accessibility for the small number of left-handed users.

 

  • Designing a practice arena that properly introduces the core mechanics – short- and long-distance locomotion; aiming, shooting, and reloading; and speech recognition – of the simulation. Both novice and experienced VR users are then compelled to engage with the simulation using the same “rules of engagement.”

 

  • We minimized the user interface to move away from any gamification in the office scenario. There are no marks on the map, no text bubble pop-ups, and no prompts telling officers what to do. In alignment with JIBC police academy SMEs, we have designed what we hope is a thoroughly immersive experience.

User Test 1

This testing session was conducted at the midway point of the project timeline with participants from CDM, with a background in shooting, as well as JIBC.

 

The first user test was designed to test whether the mechanic we designed was effective, whether users could complete important interactions, and whether our design and the user's experience with the VR made sense. If there are parts of the VR experience that users do not understand or have difficulty operating, it will be improved in the next step

 

It aims to confirm that the current unity development features and interactions are easy to use for the user. The onboarding, interaction, and visual design are easy to understand and operate.

 

With those in mind, I designed the user test 1 questionnaire, We received feedback from our client, JIBC Police, and from CDM participants who had experience with shooting.

User Test 2

Before the end of the semester, we conducted our second user test, where we updated and iterated based on the previous user test. In order to more closely match the reality of IRD - where the police will talk to and get answers from victims in the situation - we added the minimal viable product of a speech recognition system.

 

This time we no longer had CDM participants, but only our target users: police recruits, and police instructors. So I designed more user-targeted questionnaires for police recruits and instructors to investigate how our product can do better as a learning tool.

Final Product

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