Announcing the Winners of the NIST Virtual Reality Test Environment Challenge!

The voting is over, and the winners have now been announced in the $50,000 NIST Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge. In just 60 days, quite short for a challenge like this, we’ve received 21 full entries and a following of over 700 people!

The challenge: To design a physical measurement environment that uses immersive virtual reality tools for testing new first responder technologies.

The prize money of $50,000 will be distributed among the top four finalists, along with the popular vote award winner. The winners were invited to the PSCR Annual Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Meeting earlier this June, where they and their ideas were presented to a room full of government and private agencies dedicated to public safety.

Check out the winners below, and click through to learn more about each of their entries. They all submitted detailed, thorough designs to solve this problem, all tackling the situation from different angles.

First Place — $20,000 Prize

Jason Jerald “FirstSimVR: Measuring Future Tools Using Today’s VR”

FirstSimVR is “a versatile VR system that can be configured for specific first-responder scenarios in order to prototype, evaluate, and inform improved design of early virtual and physical prototypes … In addition to visually rendering the scene, our proposed system supports spatialized audio and the touching/manipulation of physical objects that emphasizes tangible interaction.”

All the tech required to build FirstSimVR is already available. It’s planned to run on the Unity game engine, and can be built with commercial off-the-shelf hardware.

Second Place — $12,000 Prize

Zach Huber “Reconfigurable Vehicle Training System”

An interesting concept, this system is for training in all kinds of vehicle-related situations and emergencies, as well as larger scenarios without vehicles.

According to the challenge submission, this VR setup could be used to train:

  • Extrication from a vehicle
  • Extrication from a burning vehicle
  • Putting out a vehicle fire
  • Routine traffic stops
  • Unusual traffic stops
  • First person on scene
  • Addressing passenger injuries by first person on scene (eg. stop the bleed)

Third Place — $8,000 Prize

UNSN “MultiVRse: Parallel Physical and VR Universes”

The MultiVRse system, unlike the ones mentioned above, automatically generates a digital world based on the physical space around you. Differently-designed spaces can be easily built and used to train different scenarios.

The system will be untethered, and will include full-body tracking, haptic feedback, and multi-user features: co-op or challenge mode.

Fourth Place — $5,000 Prize

Kirk McKinzie “Augmented Reality Emergency Response System”

From the challenge submission, this is a “Multi-sensor based, indoor positioning technology to simulate a first responder emergency situation through a wearable SMART device.”

It was designed by Captain Kirk McKinzie, who has 29 years of experience as an emergency responder and almost a decade in 360/3D forensic technology. His system will allow for real-time mapping of first responders in emergency situations, providing a better system for communication and collaboration. The collected data can be studied later on to analyze performance and find areas for improvement.

Crowd Voting Award — $5,000 Prize

Variable Labs “The Future is Hidden in the Successes of the Past”

The team at Variable Labs has worked on digital systems for NASA, the Department of Education, and the United Nations, among others. They’re tapping that experience to bring a high level of technical and procedural sophistication to bear on this problem.

Their system would be used to test the knowledge and skill of first responders and new technologies. It will use position tracking devices and sensors of various kinds, combining augmented reality with virtual reality to create a digital classroom for custom tests and training scenarios.

Honorable Mention

John Quarles’s Team PerSim™: Realistic, Portable, Low Cost Simulation

The PerSim system is for training first responders to work on a virtual patient, getting visual, auditory, and haptic feedback as they go. The condition of the virtual patient can be controlled by an instructor using a tablet, creating a realistic skin color, body movements, and sounds. Pre-set conditions can be activated, or custom scenarios can be programmed in.

Congratulations to all of our winners, and thanks again to all the heroes who submitted entries! Their hard work will hopefully find applications around the world, helping to train first responders more effectively and making them safer in the field.

There’s no guarantee that any of these ideas will go on to become fully utilized, but there’s no doubt about the bright future of all the participants in this challenge! And keep checking back to HeroX for the latest groundbreaking incentive challenges — you could be our next winning innovator!

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