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A Mixed Reality Training and Testing Facility for First Responders



We break down our platform VALOR, the Virtual and Augmented Laboratory for Objective Realities, into four primary components: the virtual environment, software infrastructure, physical reality, and the user experience. VALOR is the foundation for the mixed reality facility we are constructing as part of our PSIAP-UI grant. This facility will provide training and testing for first responders as well as a validated virtual testbed for assessing the impact of new technologies on first responders. Mixed reality training offers many of reality’s benefits with few of its drawbacks. Its digital nature allows us to prepare for more types of emergency events in less time and provides better opportunities to improve performance through data. As a product deployment testbed, it offers economic efficiencies and rapid iteration opportunities. The ultimate goal of VALOR is to save the lives and resources of first responders and the public they serve. - July 2019

Research Update: FY2019 Q1

TRACLabs reports advances made by its partner Diamond Age Technology on building a mixed reality training environment in collaboration with the Houston Fire Department (HFD). During FY2019 Q1, Diamond Age Technology developed a hose nozzle prototype with tracked bail and nozzle head for controlling water flow and spray pattern. The prototype can be turned through a 120 degree range to adjust the spray pattern. Their mixed reality environment also incorporates other physical assets (e.g., furniture) with a virtual overlay, allowing for simulated fire scenarios using real objects you can touch. HFD training specialists are providing feedback on the environment, fire propagation, and fire suppression.

Click the image below to preview the demo!

VALOR is a prototype by Diamond Age Technology for the TracLabs grant.

Project Overview

TRACLabs is partnering with the Houston Fire Department (HFD) to build a mixed reality training environment that can be used to perform experiments measuring the effectiveness of such training environments. The mixed reality training environment will integrate real-world objects, physical space, and tools with virtual reality simulation. At the core of our environment is a re-usable, reconfigurable room that aligns real-world objects with virtual-world elements.

Potential Impact:

Virtual reality can streamline first responder training allowing for more effective, faster, and safer training opportunities. This project will produce metrics that can validate the effectiveness of such technologies. Developing an optimal training simulation environment provides a realistic virtual test bed for research and development of first responder UI/UX technology.

Other Information:

Virtual and augmented reality systems have the potential to revolutionize training of first responders and for testing new user interfaces for first responders. Currently, training for first responders requires dedicated facilities with large overhead and maintenance costs, reducing both the availability and pace of training while testing of user interfaces requires expensive hardware. 

TRACLabs will work with the Houston Fire Department (HFD) and our subcontractors and consultants to build a mixed reality training and user interface evaluation environment for firefighters. The environment will be housed at the HFD Val Jahnke training facility and will have reconfigurable walls, furniture, dummies, and other physical objects. These objects will be tagged with devices that report their exact location and orientation within the room. The virtual environment will contain virtual representations of these objects in their reported locations and orientations. The virtual world will also contain elements such as smoke, flames, debris, etc. that are not contained in the physical world as well as stress-inducing elements such as aggressive animals that cannot be easily replicated in physical training environments. These virtual elements can be dynamically controlled by the instructor during training.

The primary objectives for the proposed research are to test the benefits of bridging the physicality of the real world with the flexibility, extensibility, and trackability of the digital world and for testing novel user interfaces. Working inside this aligned physical and virtual space, we will develop metrics and perform experiments with a variety of scenarios, firefighter equipment, user interfaces, and communications. Within these simulations we will test, measure, and optimize for the effectiveness and transferability of the mixed reality training into practical skills and awareness for the first responder community.


TracLabs Dedicated Full Immersion Simulator with High Bays
Credit: TracLabs


TracLabs Post Fire Simulation Debrief
Credit: TracLabs

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Created June 21, 2018, Updated December 30, 2022