Introducing Virtual Reality for Firefighter Skills Training: Opinions from Sweden and Brazil
The emergence of immersive virtual reality (IVR) technologies has raised interest in the use of fire and rescue services (FRS) as a supplement to the established practice-based hot fire-live simulation (HF-LS) training. This is due to features such as time efficiency, portable technologies, and training in scenarios not possible in HF-LS. However, whether IVR provides realistic firefighter training situations has been called into question. Previous studies have revealed differences regarding perceived presence in, and attitudes toward IVR training between novice firefighters (who can only relate to HF-LS training) and experienced firefighters (who can relate to both HF-LS and real fires). In the present study, two groups of experienced full-time employed firefighters, 53 from Brazil and 18 from Sweden tested the same IVR technology. The hypothesis was that differences in national education and training programs and real fire experiences might influence experiences in IVR technology. This study examines the differences and similarities in experienced presence, opinions on whether the graphical representations and tasks performed convey realism, and attitudes toward the IVR-supported training format. Data were collected via systematic post-training presence questionnaires and observations. The results revealed a highly experienced presence and perceived realism of the representations by the participants from both countries. However, attitudes toward using IVR technologies differed. The motivation to utilize currently available IVR training tools was higher in Brazil than in Sweden. This may be partly explained by less frequent HF-LS training opportunities in Brazil. Nevertheless, further research is needed to investigate the training transfer of IVR technologies and how these can better support skills training.
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