War’s terrifying reality made virtual by Red Cross

War’s terrifying reality made virtual by Red Cross

War’s terrifying reality made virtual by Red Cross

Written by Reuters

30 Jan, 2019 | 4:44 pm

Reuters-The crack of a sniper round strikes terror as you crouch behind a cinder-block wall. An explosion rips into your eardrums. Down the street, a building collapses into dust. As a helicopter gunship emerges through the smoke, there is nowhere to hide.

This isn’t a real battle but is as close as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been able to make it in a virtual reality (VR) simulation to help train those who work in war zones.

“We had some people who tested our product from Syria and they could not finish one of the exercise simulations because for them it was too close to what they have experienced,” said Christian Rouffaer, the head of the ICRC’s virtual reality unit.

“With VR goggles we can get very strong reactions,” he told Reuters in Bangkok, where the programming team is based.

Although the mass market for virtual reality has yet to meet the most dramatic forecasts that surrounded the launch of Facebook Inc.’s <FB.O> Oculus Rift and Sony Corp.’s <6758.T> Playstation VR in 2016, it is increasingly finding uses for specialist training.

“Ninety percent of activity in this unit is to create very serious training tools to teach all staff and partners such as Red Cross and Red Cross societies things like first aid and security,” Rouffaer said.

Simulations include treating the wounded amid the confusion of battle. That supplements hands-on first aid training would otherwise be very hard to replicate, let alone on a big scale.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has an estimated 12 million volunteers worldwide. It is usually those local volunteers who are first on the scene to help.

The environments the ICRC’s virtual reality team creates are generic, but they are based on a video shot in conflict zones.

Another of the team’s projects is building a video game that gives players the experience of a battlefield with civilians – a departure from top-selling series such as Activision Blizzard Inc.’s “Call of Duty” and Electronic Arts Inc.’s “Battlefield” games.

As the world’s conflicts increasingly take part in urban areas, the vast majority of casualties are civilians rather than combatants, according to the Red Cross.

The game will reflect that.

“It not just about running around and shooting people, which is normally the objective of most games,” Rouffaer said.

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