The University of Birmingham’s Human Interface Technologies (HIT) Team is designing and delivering innovative transformations for the future of emergency response training.

The HIT Team’s unique Medical Emergency Response Teams (MERTs) training simulator exploits the latest generation of Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) technologies and techniques to create realistic operational environments, reconfigurable to represent a range of land, air and sea rescue vehicles.

Exploiting the latest technology

Current MERT training is either highly expensive or reliant on low-fidelity training facilities. High-quality training is often dependent upon the availability of operational platforms, such as RAF Chinook helicopters or Royal Marines Landing Craft and Hovercraft, all of which can be called away at short notice.

Exploiting the latest off-the-shelf interactive VR and AR technologies, the University’s MERT simulator offers an innovative, yet affordable digital training solution to these problems. The project delivers impact in the form of vital cost savings and creating high quality training for lifesavers.

Highly realistic

The demonstrator takes the form of a mock inflatable Chinook cabin, complete with replica armaments and fixtures, which enhances the believability of the aircraft. Trainees wear a Head-Mounted Display, enhanced using the latest wireless technology, via which they are exposed to a highly realistic reconstruction of the cabin, complete with avatars and external in-flight effects provided using video footage from the HIT Team’s drones.

The UK-based company TraumaFX was commissioned to develop a SIMBODIE – a lifelike physical mannequin with reconfigurable injuries – to enhance experience of interacting with a casualty. This blending of the ‘best of the real with the best of the virtual’ defines the innovative mixed reality of the MERT simulator.

The MERT project has seen Human Factors, Electronics and Simulation specialists at the University collaborating closely alongside external stakeholders, such as defence medics and commercial companies.

Saving lives

The methodology and technology behind the HIT team’s MERT training simulator has the potential to be rolled out across a broad range of defence and public emergency response teams. The realism, adaptability and affordability ensures that the MERT project will have a huge impact on the training of emergency responders and will help to save human lives.

Professor Robert Stone, Director of the Human Interface Technologies, University of Birmingham



Read NCUB’s latest report on Digital Health and Care here.