While medical professionals are trained in Ebola treatment protocol, the physical realities of working on-site in Africa are very difficult to train for ahead of time, resulting in an increased rate of safety hazards and high turn-over due to intense, unique aspects of the working environment.
Identify and simulate a realistic work setting in Africa including physical impacts, and design/implement environmental hazards to help train situational awareness & acclimate medical professionals to the working environment:
A VR training simulation of an Ebola treatment center in Africa that puts the user in a realistic work setting, complete with training on key aspects of hazard prevention. The Samsung Gear VR plays a central role in simulating the working environment.
Interviews with several medical professionals who had worked in Ebola treatment helped recreate a realistic environment within the simulation.
First-hand experiences were instrumental in recreating an accurate experience of working inside an Ebola treatment unit.
Part of what it takes to achieve a sense of "presence" in VR, where the user feels as if they are actually in the simulated virtual world, means recreating the physical experience from top to bottom.
We took floor plans of an actual US-sponsored hospital built to combat Ebola in Liberia and used them to build a 3D model of the space and structures, then added ambient sound effects of the treatment unit interior to increase realism.
The environment recreation is completed by having the user step into a set of full-body personal protective equipment, blending the VR experience with the real-life effects of sweating and restricted movement. (Pictured above is the simulation in use at CES 2015.)
Interactability in the simulation is a synthesis of the Gear VR headset and controller working together. Locomotion through the simulation uses both head movements and controller actions to move the user through 3D space. **This is not an ideal locomotion approach, as it causes nausea in some users. Using the controller to walk through the simulation was a compromise due to the limitations of the VR hardware.
We partnered with medical professionals who helped define how the simulation should work to reinforce medical training. As you progress through the simulation, health & safety hazards occur around you, and the simulation allows you to intervene and resolve the situation by demonstrating environmental awareness and communicating with virtual coworkers.
Watch a video overview of the initial project design and interactive elements:
We accomplished a healthy mix of environment simulation, training experiences and interactions. Here are just a handful of features that provide a heightened sense of immersion for the purpose of adaptation to challenging environmental factors:
Preliminary feedback from medical professionals has been very positive. The Ebola Training Project was featured in several news articles and blogs, including The Economist and GeekWire, and was recently shown at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show.
"They just did a phenomenal job of being able to illustrate that experience."
- Kate Hurley, clinical nurse manager and frontline Ebola responder