Tuesday, 04 June 2019 10:38

St John turns to VR to improve its CPR training

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A screenshot from the CPR training module for childcare centres. A screenshot from the CPR training module for childcare centres. Courtesy St John Ambulance

New technology has been put to good use by St John Ambulance Victoria, with the organisation joining hands with VR specialist Start VR to craft a means of learning CPR through virtual reality training.

The training course, named SJx, uses Oculus Go headsets to take students, in groups of four, through a one-hour session during which they can gain accreditation. The trainers can manage students, assign hardware, synchronise content and provide certification through a custom-built iPad app.

St John business manager for commercial training, David Loiacono [below, right], told iTWire that the VR course had a number of pluses: it was shorter, needed less space to be administered and was better when it came to retention of what had been learnt.

The portability of the equipment used meant that it would be easily administered in regional locations as well, he said.

SJx can also be delivered in a two-hour course for a group of 20, using immersive learning. Research had shown that students who were training through VR were able to answer questions correctly 82% of the time, 8% higher than the average respondent.

Gordon Botwright FINALSt John chief executive Gordon Botwright [left] said the prime motive behind the new course was to improve survival rates, increasing the proportion of those who received CPR and defibrillation where needed.

"We want to see trained people more prepared to use their CPR skills, instead of merely receiving training for compliance reasons," he said.

The cost of the VR course is actually more - the old method cost $75 and the new one costs $95 - but the positives have ensured that this did not become a hurdle. St John receives no recurrent government funding; it is a non-profit which has to manage its own budget.

Botwright said the organisation had done some research before deciding that VR would be a good path to traverse. Research had shown that people who had been trained through VR were more ready to respond in a real-life situation, with about 85% being ready, compared to 58% who were trained through the old method.

DSC 5712 meitu 2St John launched the VR course with a campaign at the Southern Cross Station recently and some TV coverage resulted; direct approaches were also being made to big customers, Botwright added.

The plan was to see how the CPR module was received and then move to creating VR courses for other modules, he said. A CPR module had been created for the childcare industry as well.

Kain Tietzel, the chief executive of Start VR, the company which created the VR software, said that though VR was not big among ordinary users, business was seeing wide adoption.

He said his company, which started out a little less than four years ago, had created a VR app for Qantas, and also done work for Samsung, Facebook and Westpac.

"We specialise in interactive storytelling and St John approached us during their tender process," Tietzel said, adding that Start VR was one of four companies which were canvassed.

The St John CPR course uses Oculus headsets which cost about $300 apiece. Tietzel said about 500 such headsets had been sold in the last 12 months, emphasising his earlier point about the rapid adoption of the technology by businesses.

There are three parts to the VR software:

  • a student application that delivers interactive course content and assessment to VR and iPad devices;
  • a trainer app that manages student attendance and assessment, synchronises media playback and ensures the simple and elegant roll-out of training; and
  • an installation app that works with large format projectors to immerse groups of up to 20 users in a two-hour class variant. This works in concert with a BYOD offering where students are invited to take
    their written assessments from their personal smartphone.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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