Air Force tries virtual reality to curb suicide and sexual assault

In the military, intervening, especially against someone of higher rank, can be culturally difficult, especially for younger recruits. “Barriers sometimes get in the way of the people involved,” said Carmen Schott, director of the sexual assault prevention and response program for the Air Force Air Mobility Command. “If someone has a higher rank, they may be more shy to say something. The Air Force has gone to great lengths to make it clear that nothing negative will happen if it intervenes. “

The goal of the virtual reality program is to represent scenarios with airmen in simulated environments. The technology allows aviators to select from the signs at the bottom of the screen to have an interactive “conversation” with a photorealistic virtual actor, one whose facial expressions and reactions are intended to make training more effective.

In this behavioral essay, Airmen learn what can be helpful to say, how to ask their friend if they have a gun in their house and why some other responses, such as “man up,” are not helpful. Participants receive feedback on their “empathy” score and advice on how to improve in future encounters.

“Virtual reality training places the user on stage, not in a classroom where they are moving away from the area and on their cell phone,” explained Ms. Schott. “You are an active participant. You have to be prepared. I think it will help Airmen retain and remember knowledge. We don’t want people to feel judged. They may not make perfect decisions, but they will learn skills. “

Kevin Cornish, the CEO of Moth + Flame, a virtual reality learning company in Brooklyn, looked a bit like an intruder at the Air Force base here, an artist casually dressed in uniforms. Cornish, who was working on Taylor Swift music videos when he was fascinated by the immersive experience of a 360-degree camera used on one of them, said there was “something so exhilarating about someone looking into your eyes and talking to you. . “

He said that he was seeing more and more companies turning to virtual reality to simulate difficult work conversations and game scenarios, especially around diversity and inclusion.

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