ISP considers virtual reality training aspect

Posted at 10:29 AM, Mar 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-30 15:06:45-04

Idaho State Police could be getting in on the ground level of new-age training technology. Virtual reality is one step beyond video vignettes, but one step short of practicing on expensive patrol cars. Earlier this month, local virtual reality content creation company 360° Immersive pitched an idea to state police that could bring the streets into the classroom.

"You feel your way through it. You feel like you're actually in the car, in the scene," founder Dave Cleverdon said.

In one week, they quickly put together VR content of a pit maneuver -- something troopers can do to stop a speeding car -- filmed from all standpoints. The concept could help instructors train new troopers before they start bending fenders on real patrol cars.

They ran the rough draft by troopers who are already familiar with what the real-life technique looks and feels like to get their initial reactions. Some troopers think it's already pretty close to the real deal.

"It's pretty interesting, the way you can go all the way 360, look up, down, in, out, and see where the cars are," Sgt. Chris Glenn said.

This isn't the first training program 360° Immersive has created. They created a whole library of Boise State football plays for players in individual positions to go over without counting against their NCAA practice time limits.

Now that developers have had a chance to go over their latest immersive experience with ISP, they know what improvements they'd like to make.

"You have to be ready to do some out-of-the box thinking to figure out how to capture the imagery best," developer Jenn Lastra said.

They also have more ideas for other potential training scenarios, too.

"One wonderful application could be hazmat because there's so many different circumstances that you have to be aware of," Cleverdon said. "There's vapor, wind, placards, perhaps downed power lines. So you could build a scenario."

Captain Vern Hancock says this could be a great addition to the simulator training ISP already uses, and might be just what they need to cross the barrier between training vignettes and hands-on experience.

"Not only can we just tell them and draw it on the board and video from a standing point, but now you're actually in the car," he said.

Cleverdon also showed the agency a cheap, $7 cardboard viewer that's cheap enough for instructors to give away to everyone in the training course. Trooper recruits could simply pop their smart phones into the viewer and experience virtual pit maneuvers in their own time.

Hancock says the virtual reality proposal stands a good chance at becoming something ISP uses. The next steps would be to get budget approval, and then start looking for grants to fund the VR content. 

As of now, there's no timeline set for that process.