According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 109 firefighters lost their lives due to training injuries from 2008 to 2019.
Traditional firefighter training often involves setting real fires, which while controlled, are still dangerous and can cause injury or even death. The fire also releases smoke and pollutants into the atmosphere, affecting nearby air quality. Plus, each new training requires a new fire to be started.
Virtual reality fire training offers a safe and practical supplement to traditional training methods. By just filming one scenario in VR, trainees can watch the same training over and over again in a safe, yet immersive, environment.
One agency working on the forefront of virtual reality fire training in the UK is Reality In Virtual Reality (RiVR). Their VR training solution, RiVR Link is a classroom in a box solution fitted with VR headsets, a router and a laptop, enabling immersive training anywhere in the world. We interviewed Scott Gibson, Head of Video Production at RiVR, to get his insights on the benefits of virtual reality fire training.
1. Why do you think virtual reality fire training is a good solution for this industry?
Our virtual reality fire training enables fire investigators to demonstrate to trainees how a fire was started and how a burn develops over time.
Our solution uses a combination of our in-house 6-DoF photorealistic fire-investigation suite, accompanied by real 360 video footage of the original burns taking place. It is a very useful educational tool which has repeatable usage and is cost-effective as it reduces the need to set up and burn new scenarios.
Virtual reality fire training also has environmental benefits. By burning fewer buildings, less gases are released into the atmosphere. It is amazing for firefighting because they can use it anywhere at a much lower cost than continuing to burn buildings.
2. What is unique about the RiVR Link training solution compared to other options out there?
RiVR Link is an all-in-one synchronized training solution that allows participants to view 360 immersive content simultaneously using 3-DoF headsets included in the Link kit. Trainers have access to a tablet PC which they can use to control the training session and annotate and draw on the image using the pen tool or shapes.
What sets RiVR Link apart from other solutions is the ability to run remote sessions from anywhere with a stable WiFi connection. Trainees (who could be sitting on their own sofa at home) are brought into a virtual lecture theatre. The trainer is displayed on a screen at the front via webcam, with a large screen next to them for hosting 2D presentations.
The trainer has the ability to transition participants into a 360 sphere where immersive lessons can take place. To help aid sessions, there is also a talk-back function so the trainer can communicate with participants and participants can take part in debates and discussions.
3. What is your workflow like for creating a virtual reality fire training?
Due to the excessive levels of heat given off in a controlled burn, we use cheaper, disposable cameras inside the burns and salvage the SD cards afterwards. We then use the Insta360 Pro 2 outside to provide a detailed insight into the procedures the fire service puts in place whilst battling the blaze. This provides viewers with several viewpoints to choose from.
In post-production, most of our work is often removing rigs, people and other objects from the scene, along with stabilization, color matching and grading. The high resolution and bitrate of the Insta360 Pro 2 means we can render a number of VFX shots from the original master without losing any fidelity. The files are then ready for the final assembly edit and the output file is then downsampled to 4K equirectangular.
The high resolution and bitrate of the Insta360 Pro 2 means we can render a number of VFX shots from the original master without losing any fidelity.Scott Gibson, RiVR
The final files are then passed onto our development team who integrate the exported content into our Fire-Investigation training software packages. For clients’ standalone 360 projects, we upload the finalized assets directly onto the RiVR Link kits. Then we distribute the kits to the client to begin training staff within our fully synchronized multiple-headset solution.
4. What do you look for in a VR camera?
Insta360 Pro 2 provides a high level of clarity and detail due to its six lenses and higher data rates. In the ever evolving 360 headset market with our other partners, including Pico Interactive, HMD screens are getting sharper and packing in more pixels with every new iteration. Using a camera capable of shooting 8K natively future-proofs our projects for clients and provides consumers of our content with the sharpest possible image.
Insta360 Pro 2 is a robust camera with solid build quality.Scott Gibson, RiVR
Insta360 Pro 2 is also a robust camera with solid build quality. This is important when shooting in varied environments where we can’t control the weather.
Insta360 Pro 2’s built-in 9-axis FlowState stabilization also allows us to use gyroscope data straight from the camera for a smoother image instead of relying on third-party software.
5. How have you seen fire services adopting virtual reality fire trainings?
Over the past few years we have attended many exhibitions around the world spanning from the US to Europe showcasing our products to thousands of delegates. We often target our product showcases at events that focus on the emergency services, military and government with an ongoing partnership with Clarion Events.
Throughout these times, we have met firefighters from all over, who say our training solutions are accurate and effective in providing the same muscle memory and learning outcomes as traditional solutions.
Virtual reality fire training solutions are paving the way for the training of tomorrow. In a post-COVID world, RiVR Link provides a new solution for bringing employees and trainees together in one space without them even needing to be in the same room.