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How virtual reality simulation can maximize your training efforts

The VirTra V-300 immerses officers in realistic scenarios to help them make better decisions under duress


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Sponsored by VirTra

By Sean Curtis for PoliceOne BrandFocus

No matter the size of the police agency or their budget, law enforcement administrators are constantly trying to maximize their spending when it comes to training. To be effective, training needs to be relevant to your jurisdiction, it should be immersive enough to stimulate stress, and it should offer the opportunity for debriefing and feedback while offering a variety of scenarios to hold their interest.

The VirTra V-300 wraps the trainee with five screens, providing 300 degrees of viewing area that must be continually assessed for threats. Dozens of multi-incident scenarios challenge officers’ critical thinking skills, firearms skills and psychological preparation. (image/VirTra)
The VirTra V-300 wraps the trainee with five screens, providing 300 degrees of viewing area that must be continually assessed for threats. Dozens of multi-incident scenarios challenge officers’ critical thinking skills, firearms skills and psychological preparation. (image/VirTra)

To meet these needs, VirTra created the V-300, a virtual reality simulation training system.

Train for Relevant Scenarios 

Law enforcement agencies need scenarios that can be representative of situations officers will face in their areas and also be updated to handle an evolving threat paradigm.

An officer working a large metropolitan area will not likely face the same situations that a rural deputy might encounter. The majority of circumstances should reflect the challenges officer will likely come across in their shifts. The VirTra V-300 offers a suite of scenarios to fit your jurisdiction’s needs, from a shooting in a theater to an outdoor range. The scenarios are filmed with live actors and feature life-like sound effects that keep the trainee on his or her toes.

The V-300 system includes dozens of multi-incident scenarios to meet changing threats and challenge officers’ critical thinking skills, firearms skills and psychological preparation in a zero-risk environment. VirTra provides updates with new scenarios, and custom scenario productions are available.

Train for Stress in an Immersive, Realistic Experience

Achieving a simulation experience that provides realistic scenarios and responses has long been a challenge. Some training simulators struggle to create convincing scenarios, often falling down with unrealistic acting or feeling weapons, or relying on single screens that did not reflect a fully surrounding reality.

The VirTra V-300 wraps the trainee with five screens, providing 300 degrees of viewing area that must be continually assessed for threats. In addition, the unit has many available weapons simulators, which fire realistically, causing the actions to cycle so the shooter experiences and must compensate for recoil. When the guns are fired, sound effects play on surrounding speakers to provide audio feedback for an immersive experience.

While trained actions and responses often become mundane for officers, adding a dose of stress to the situation often causes the wheels to come off the bus. Consider a reload for a firearm. This is something we practice so often, we can practically do it in our sleep. That isn’t necessarily realistic training, however. People who are stressed have a hard time doing simple tasks – so when you induce stress on the street, that reload you practiced in a calm, static situation becomes a huge challenge. Producing an accurate stress response to help officers overcome this hurdle is a critical component of any experiential training.

The VirTra scenarios are designed to achieve this, particularly if coupled with the Threat-Fire, a device you wear on your belt that administers an electric shock to simulate the experience of being shot. Officers learn they can still fight, move, reload, shoot and communicate despite the simulated injury. The V-300 allows trainees to begin to inoculate that stress by experiencing strain-laden decision making in a risk-free scenario.

Unpredictability is also a key factor. VirTra has designed branching scenarios with multiple possible outcomes based upon the actions of the trainee. Training coordinators can steer the given situation based upon the actions of the officer, or completely independent of them. From a control unit, the instructor can select from a tree of responses, driving the scenario one way or another.

Should the student display some outstanding de-escalation skills, the bad guy with a gun might give it up and obey commands, going into custody completely compliant. Other situations may result in the need for the officer to use escalating force to reach a resolution. The decision broadly opens the possible outcomes and lessons accordingly.

Provide Interaction and Feedback Opportunities

One of the most immediate benefits of training is the interaction between student and instructor. On a static range, a teacher can only offer feedback on marksmanship or weapon handling. The VirTra V-300 allows the instructor to view the officer’s decisions and discuss after the exercise whether they were tactically sound, legal or within departmental policy.

The available feedback can be capitalized upon in the moment. For instance, a student returning fire to a general area where they engaged from might inadvertently shoot a civilian hiding behind cover. The lesson can be discussed immediately after the scenario is complete, solidifying the experience for the trainee. The trainer can ask how the shooter might approach the situation differently or even run them through again, allowing them to try another resolution.

Since trainees are surrounded by images and sounds that they must react to, the 300-degree immersion of the V-300 offers both the trainer and trainee a realistic picture of how the officer might react in a real scenario he or she may encounter in the field. Because of this immersive level of reality, officers can take advantage of the “train hard, fight easy” philosophy, having already been challenged with worst-case situations.

Although there is no live fire in the V-300, agencies can reduce risk as well as realize savings in several areas, including ammunition, gunsmithing and range fees/maintenance. Virtual marksmanship is valid and a real saver of time and expense. Even a smaller agency can spend tens of thousands of dollars on ammunition. By using the CO2-powered guns in VirTra, departments can realize significant savings. Also, by allowing only VirTra’s training weapons into the system, you can ensure there will be no negligent discharges potentially causing injuries or damaging property.

A New Era of Training

Over the past 20 years, the risks associated with use-of-force scenarios have increased, especially regarding use of deadly force. Officers and agencies can be sued civilly and even taken to task by the Justice Department if their training or policies are found wanting.

Extensive training with the right tools is one way to address these risks. The VirTra V-300 offers the most realistic training experience, immersing officers in a heart-pounding exercise that can prepare them to make critical decisions in the most challenging scenarios. The simulator not only prepares officers for the realities they may face, it also saves money in many ways and can be a force modifier.

About the Author

Sean Curtis is a law enforcement professional with nearly two decades of experience, serving with SWAT, diving and swift water rescue teams in Colorado. He has also served in wildland fire, search and rescue, EMS and emergency management.

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