Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn more
  • Home
  • Calls
  • Third call - Vision Technologies / Challenge

Virtual Reality for Fire Fighting Training


National Maritime College of Ireland

Description of the technological challenge

1.  Context, definition of the problem.

Firefighting training, a core subject in NMCI’s maritime safety training syllabus, is included in the Munster Technological University nautical studies curriculum and offered to commercial customers taking offshore industry (IMO and OPITO) accredited courses. Trainees learn theory and technique in a classroom setting and then apply knowledge during robust action-based practical exercises that take place in the Fire-Training Unit (FTU), a compartmentalised space that mimics areas aboard ships or offshore installations where fires most commonly start. Trainees, safely exposed to flames, smoke and heat in a controlled manner, practice firefighting and learn how to negotiate typical access constraints (stairwells, ladders, lockable hatches) under emergency response conditions.

Fear of the dark claustrophobic conditions in the FTU, and possibly a degree of pyrophobia, impacts negatively on some first-time trainees’ abilities to plan courses of action and recall procedures. Cognitive impairment, in addition to physical discomfort and difficulty maneuvering while wearing heavy breathing apparatus and restrictive protective clothing, can delay the onset of positive learning outcomes desired by instructors. Candidates must achieve proficiency in firefighting in order to acquire or maintain professional qualifications upon which their livelihoods depend; therefore, instructors mentor individuals until they demonstrate competency. Time and resources might be saved if candidates suffering cognitive overload could be screened during induction and equipment familiarization phases of training, and given time to acclimatize to training scenarios before being introduced to live-flame conditions in the FTU.


2.  Challenge definition. Description of need

NMCI wishes to employ immersive VR as means to ease cognitive transition from classroom environments to live-fire conditions in the FTU.

However, strict maritime safety legislation prescribes not only learning outcomes and demonstrable standards of competency, but also mandates types of training system employed so VR cannot be introduced as a front-line teaching aid in existing NMCI curricula. Nevertheless, NMCI considers it desirable for reasons of cost saving, environmental damage reduction, and training efficacy to embrace immersive technology, but first evidence of VR benefits in firefighting training must be provided in order to initiate regulatory evolution.

Proposed solutions must meet two needs:

1) Benefit the current generation of trainees without infringing on course content and delivery methods agreed by training accreditation agencies. NMCI envisages offering the system to candidates as an optional extracurricular activity during on-site training and as a revision resource. Retraining intervals for offshore training may be as long as five years, so provision for interim re-training would be a unique selling point and valuable marketing tool for NMCI courses.

2) Serve as a technology demonstrator, when enhanced by outputs of future NMCI research, for convincing offshore industry regulators that VR has a role to play reducing reliance on live-fire training during mainstream maritime safety training.


3.       Requirements

The proponent will develop a cross-platform, first-person, immersive reality serious game in which players:

  • Familiarize themselves with layout of the NMCI FTU in varying degrees of simulated visibility.
  • Reinforce knowledge of correct actions after discovering a fire, including choice, preparation and pre-operational checks of fire-fighting equipment.
  • Reinforce knowledge of smoke-filled area search and evacuation techniques. 

3.1 General

  1. Unity 3-D development platform will be used for software development.
  2. The game will published to PC, Occulus and WebGL platforms.
  3. The solution must be robust and not need continuous adjustment.
  4. Interaction will be by keyboard and mouse, standard VR controller and Occulus hand tracking gestures.
  5. Software should be structured to facilitate future incorporation of multiple players  with body and object tracking, customized VR controllers to mimic firefighting tools.

3.2 Gameplay

Gameplay in each theme (familiarization, equipment preparation and evacuation drills) will comprise three levels:

  1. Guided walk-through session giving player hints and information.
  2. Practice sessions in which players’ actions are accompanied by optional hints and feedback.
  3. Evaluation level in which players carry out exercises with no feedback other than responses of the game itself. Players performance will scored anonymously (player accounts are not envisaged).

Players will negotiate steps and ladders, operate catches and locking mechanisms on doors and hatches during gameplay, and interact with the following key props as indicated:

  • Fire hoses (unreel hoses, attach nozzles, and operate flow control valves).
  • Portable fire extinguishers (check pressure, remove guard pin, and operate trigger).
  • Breathing apparatus (check air pressure, operate cylinder valve, listen to end-of-service-time whistle, couple face mask to supply hose, and operate face mask valves).
  • Smoke hood (don and neck break seal to admit air).
  • Personal safety equipment (check contents and don) survival suit, grab bag, torch, smoke hood.

Gameplay for theme three should include a casualty search exercise focusing on correct teamwork techniques (maintaining a chain, checking floor soundness, maintaining wall contact). A game-controlled avatar (acting as optional lead member in the chain) will be included. 

3.3 Gamesoace

Internal dimensions of the FTU and locations of entrance/exit hatches/doors, steps, and ladders should be accurately modelled. Surfaces in the FTU are featureless and textureless, therefore to enhance learning in VR space, gamespace surfaces should be decorated with appropriate textures and populated with essential props (see section 3.1). Generic maritime-themed internal structure textures can be used for spaces other than the accommodation cabin, galley and machinery space, which should be represented in detail sufficient to meet requirements stated in section 3.4.

Smoke, flame and illumination levels should vary according to game logic, however the game will not teach fire extinguishing techniques so combustion physics modelling (beyond the Unity game engine’s out-of-the-box smoke and flame simulation capabilities) is not anticipated. However, consequences of incorrect player actions (for example, choice of inappropriate extinguisher media, incorrect media dispersal pattern, or opening door/hatch concealing fire) should be indicated by with stylized sudden escalation of flame/smoke. 

3.4 Fidelity and real-world relevance

Render quality should be sufficiently high fidelity that safety training accreditation authority observers judging the usefulness of VR will not be detracted by cosmetic limitations. Similarly, gameplay should be implemented in a manner that makes it clear to observers how skill and knowledge acquired in-game is relevant to real life.


4. Expected Outcomes

The proponent will deliver immersive VR content viewable on PC systems, Occulus HMDs and WebGL-enabled browsers.

The user experience will reinforce players’ knowledge of firefighting drills and exercises. After completing gameplay and interacting with modal props, players will be familiar with the NMCI FTU layout in good and bad visibility whilst wearing simulated breathing apparatus, and will be confident in their ability to prepare for service and operate firefighting equipment simulated by the game. Players who have completed the game will not be held back by negative emotions when exposed to live-flame conditions in the FTU and will therefore experience better learning outcomes than trainees whose progress is held back by sensory overload.


5. Budget

A budget of 15,000€ is available to cover manpower costs. A separate capital outlay budget of 3000€ is available for purchase or hire of computers and VR accessories, and for procurement of 3D assets.


More information about the challenge:



Applications to this challenge are not allowed because the call is already closed.