A simulator that mimics the conditions on board a Chinook helicopter has been created to help train medics in the Armed Forces.
The Ministry of Defence currently does most of its training in grounded helicopters at RAF Brize Norton, but this has its limitations. The difficulties associated with treating a casualty in a noisy, bumpy helicopter as the pilot flies over a battlefield are not easy to replicate.
The Human Interface Technology (HIT) team at the University of Birmingham believe their virtual reality simulator has the potential to create a more realistic environment. The simulator sits inside an inflatable enclosure which is kitted out to look like a real Chinook helicopter. A virtual reality headset and hand controllers allow the user to interact with the environment.
A dummy casualty lies on the floor and moving footage of Dartmoor from the air can be seen through the windows and back hatch. "As best as we can we're using commercial, off the shelf components," said Professor Bob Stone, team director of HIT.
"We are using the HTC Vive headset and that is being tracked in real-time by something called the lighthouse tracking system, which is basically two boxes with a pair of scanning lasers.
"They scan the environment in which the individual is moving and photosensors on the headset pick up the position and orientation of the head." Lead Simulation Developer, Dr Robert Guest said: "We really want to be able to give people, at least partly, the impression of actually being within that medical environment.
"You have got the vibrations, you have got the sound effects, and you have got the unusual light distortions from the rotors. "We want to prepare people for all these additional audio and visual inputs that they are just not used to."
"I think this could make a huge difference," said Professor Col Peter Mahoney, Consultant Anaesthetist at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine.
"Virtual reality is widely used now within the military, but it's only recently been considered as a way of training our medics and our doctors.
"We can now see a pathway to getting a very realistic clinical simulator." Watch the video here (...)