By Dillon Thomas
ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4)– With the assistance of one local Colorado business, firefighters in Arvada are one-step closer to using virtual reality, or VR, technology to train for emergencies.
The Arvada Fire Department has agreed to team up with the Westminster-based technology company Optera Group to use VR to better prepare for unique emergency responses.
If a grant is approved, the two parties could collaborate to develop a wide range of VR scenarios, which departments around the world could use to train.
Arvada Fire’s Michelle Cherniske told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas she was just one a several department employees who tested the VR through Optera.
“It was just so immersive, it felt like a real situation,” Cherniske said.
Department officials were able to experience a simulation of a fire sparked in an operating room.
Optera founder Cole Sandau said unique situations are possible through VR, while training on them with real objects, or humans, is very difficult, dangerous, and expensive.
“We can simulate things in virtual reality that you can’t do near as well in real life,” Sandau said. “The situations are inherently dangerous. They are inherently complex.”
If the grant is approved, Optera planned on working with Arvada Fire to develop the scenarios.
Optera would be given access to the department, in order to recreate everyday situations and environments. In return, Arvada Fire would be given access to VR goggles, and the scenarios created.
“Our goal is to build an environment that you give yourself to, and you forget you are not in the real world anymore,” Sandau said.
“Having something like this is just going to make it that much easier for us to get that real life experience, but in a safe setting like our station,” Cherniske said.
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.