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We do not perform at our best when we’re in highly stressful or even threatening situations: our actions are more impulsive and less deliberate. This is especially problematic for police officers, who are expected to perform responsibly and rationally in the face of threat, without exception. Their actions are scrutinized by the public, and their mistakes can have harmful consequences for others. This is why police officers need to train control over their responses to threat as much as possible. Since this kind of training is costly (in terms of time and personnel) we want to develop a low-cost training tool that offers the possibility to practice controlled responses to threatening situations with real-time feedback. To achieve this, we combine virtual reality (VR) and biofeedback to create a personalized, realistic training experience, while honing state-of-the-art technology and psychophysical theory.
We believe that the decline of performance under threat is to a large extend explained by a sub-optimal physiological state. Therefore, we base our work on studies evaluating which patterns in heart rate, breathing, and brain activity are predictive of mistakes under threat. We used this knowledge to develop a training game in VR, where a player can practice to control their behavioral responses to threatening situations.
To elicit a genuine sense of challenge (and sometimes threat), we decided to stay away from realistic reconstructions of "real-life" policing situations as those tend to be costy, complex and usually give the user a sense of incompleteness and uncannyness. A game-like environment, in our case a zombie shooter, proved more efficient to both train the physiological control of police trainers in stressful context and also extract meaningful behavioral metrics. The feedback provided to the player about their physiological state, implemented as a restriction of the visual field, has already proven its efficacy in training physiological control. Additionally, this new learned skill has been shown to transfer to contexts where biofeedback was not presented to the player.
Police trainers have rated this training as very challenging and engaging. Moreover, 80% of them indicated that they would want to use DUST or similar products in their own teaching.
Made in Collaboration with EPAN Lab