Virtual training soon to be a reality for RCMP cadets

A partnership between the University of Regina and the RCMP could soon see cadets using virtual reality in their training.

Cadets could be beta testing new virtual reality training tech by mid to late fall

Megan Smith, an associate professor at the University of Regina, is developing the hardware RCMP cadets will soon use in virtual reality training. (Matt Howard/CBC News)

The RCMP will soon have a new tool in their bag when it comes to training for escalating situations.

Megan Smith, a professor at the University of Regina, was approached about two years ago by the RCMP's Greg Krätzig, the director of research and strategic partnerships at the RCMP's Regina training facility, to develop virtual reality tools that could help cadets learn about their work and tools they use in the field.

"There's a difference between learning on a video screen, or from a paper they have to read, or some kind of training module, to actually being in a really immersed environment, where they're triggered with all sorts of emotional triggers and stimuli with their eyes," Smith said.

Virtual training soon to be a reality for RCMP cadets

4 years ago
Duration 2:59
The University of Regina is working with the RCMP to develop virtual reality tools to help with training.

Smith created a mockup of the RCMP's handgun using 3D printing and turned it into a controller that's paired with the virtual world and scenarios that are being created.

Smith says advances in video game technology, which also uses VR tech, has been a great asset to her work as an academic. (Matt Howard/CBC News)

So far, the developed scenarios include a shooting range and a scenario where the officer is planted into a city and they have to figure out what kind of situation is going on, Smith said.

"An officer or a trainer would release a situation based on the cadet's reactions within the scene," Smith said. "The cadet is there to de-escalate in this particular case, and based on their reactions they then go through a series of other experiences."

Smith developed these handgun controllers based on the real handguns RCMP officers use in the field. (Matt Howard/CBC News)

While the process is still in the research and development stage, the plan is to get cadets doing beta tests on the virtual reality training in the mid to late fall, according to Krätzig.

"We want to make sure that all of the tools that a police officer will use in the field, has the same feel and function as it does in reality," Krätzig said.

He said there's currently a lot of limitations in the current simulations the RCMP uses. He said virtual reality presents more flexibility because scenarios can change based on actions cadets take in the process.

Krätzig said there's someone with the RCMP  responsible for planning the scenarios, while Smith is responsible for developing the hardware that cadets would use while conducting virtual reality training.

According to Krätzig, someone with the RCMP's Depot Division is responsible for creating the scenarios cadets use in training. (Matt Howard/CBC News)

Through virtual reality, cadets are able to get a full 360 degree view of their surroundings, but other senses are triggered as well, according to Krätzig. He said sounds and smells are going to be incorporated into the scenarios.

It's an effort that's caught the attention of other federal agencies around the world, according to Krätzig.

"Right now we're working with a number of US and UK, federal agencies, who all are very interested in training in this area. We're definitely leading the pack, without a doubt," Krätzig said.