SUPPLIED .Ruggiero Lovreglio of Massey University's school of engineering and advanced technology.
An Auckland hospital is getting ready for the chaos of a big earthquake thanks to a serious game.Researchers with Massey University have been trialling virtual reality to evacuate Auckland City Hospital after such an event.
Dr Ruggiero Lovreglio said it was an effective way to train people for worst-case scenarios.
"You can start putting people in situations that you couldn't in classic experiments," Lovreglio said. "VR can teach by doing rather than teaching by listening."
The experiment trained 179 participants, hooked up to a console one-by-one with a headset and vibrating platform.They were then taken through a virtual version of the hospital. Players moved through the damaged hospital after a simulated earthquake, making decisions and navigating the debris.
SUPPLIED. Virtual reality after the hospital goes into disarray.
"The idea was building from other experiments that showed virtual reality, because of its features and engagements, can improve learning outcomes," Lovreglio said.
Serious games are designed for purposes other than entertainment. While other serious games had tackled fire scenarios, this was one of the first to examine people's decision making after an earthquake, he said.
SUPPLIED. A vibrating base and virtual reality kit was used to simulate the events of an earthquake.
"There is definitely potential for virtual reality to be used to train people for emergency situations," Lovreglio said. We have received a lot of positive feedback from people, saying they feel much more confident doing things they otherwise didn't know how to do."
The Auckland region has a low risk of a major earthquake, according to the Earthquake Commission website – but the threat still exists.
SUPPLIED.Screenshots from the software, left, and reality, right.
Lovreglio said Auckland City Hospital was chosen as a case study because it offered different types of building occupants, including staff, visitors and patients. The biggest limitation for VR designers and researchers was motion sickness, Lovreglio said.
"In poorly designed games, there is a mismatch with what we see in the virtual world and what we sense with our vestibular system, which is a gyroscope for our brain. When there is a mismatch, the body thinks we are being poisoned and tries to fight it." Lovreglio said the research team would publish their findings later in the year.
It has been funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Natural Hazards Research Platform. The researchers also hoped to work more with organisations such as Fire and Emergency New Zealand to develop other virtual reality serious games.