Projects 

Improving the workplace

The Centre for Advanced Training Systems (ATS) activities are funded on a project-specific basis and to date, have focussed on improving workplace training in three main areas.

Learn more about our specific projects, by clicking on the links below:

Latest News

Health Projects

Tactics VR - Streamlined workflow management for acute stroke care

Project Name: VR-based Training in Management of Acute Stroke

Project Overview: This study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a “package intervention” in providing better access for patients in remote areas to reperfusion therapies following acute stroke. As part of this study, ATS developed and implemented a VR training tool to be deployed to junior medical officers, to train them in the optimal processing of an acute stroke patient coming to hospital.

The VR training tool offers an immersive environment where users are taken through a virtual stroke patient’s journey. The program includes video commentary by experts, assisted collection of relevant information, evaluation of representative imaging and treatment decision-making and support, as well as feedback on user performance to enhance learning experience.

Beyond the VR module, we have developed a comprehensive training environment. This includes a supporting website and reporting environment, with access to instructions and additional resources and automated capture of VR usage and user performance.

Collaborator / Partners / Funding:

Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Relevant Links:

Tactics

Paediatric Distraction Tool – Virtual reality to reduce pain relief treatment in children

Project Name: Paediatric Distraction Therapy

Project Overview: This project aims to implement VR as a distraction therapy for children undergoing painful injections.

Nobody likes injections, especially children. Many parents will tell you that the routine immunization visits are an unpleasant affair. This multiplies when a child has numerous medical conditions, has difficulties in many aspects of their daily life and must receive painful intramuscular injections as part of their rehabilitative care.

VR can effectively reduce pain in a range of medical procedures. Dr Timothy Scott (HNE KidsRehab) highlighted the need for additional, non-pharmacological analgesic options for paediatric patients at the John Hunter Children’s Hospital botox injection clinic. He proposed that VR technology may provide better patient health outcomes. The Centre for Advanced Training Systems (ATS) have formed a collaborative alliance with the clinical team, with the common goal of co-designing and implementing VR as a distraction therapy for this patient group.

Collaborator / Partners / Funding:

Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Centre for Advanced Training Systems

 

 

Cybersickness - Uncovering mechanisms and developing treatments for motion sickness

Project Name: Biomarkers of Cybersickness

Project Overview: Cybersickness is a subtype of motion sickness caused by exposure to provocative VR content (e.g. content mimicking significant accelerations). We performed detailed clinical and physiological assessment of cybersickness using a virtual rollercoaster scenario (see image). The majority of our volunteers requested to terminate the ride in less than 10 minutes. We also performed the first direct comparison study of cybersickness with motion-induced motion sickness; reporting that in both instances nausea is accompanied by a selective increase of sweating on the forehead region. Using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), we also found that cybersickness is associated with dramatic changes in brain blood flow (haemodynamics).

In collaboration with Otolith Labs, a US-based start-up company, we are now testing an innovative wearable device to prevent motion sickness through non-invasive Vestibular System Masking.

This project is led by Dr Shamus Smith.

Collaborator / Partners / Funding: 

Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Relevant Links:

Cybersickness

An image of VR content used in our studies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUtHvzNTTNo

Cybersickness

An example of physiological recordings  obtained during the VR simulated ride  on a rollervoaster . Traces (from top to bottom): heart rate, respiratory signal, respiratory rate, finger skin conductance level (SCL) tonic, finger SCL phasic, forehead SCL tonic, forehead SCL phasic. The first and the last vertical lines indicate the start and the end of virtual ride, respectively. Numbers above other lines indicate nausea level experienced by the subjects. Note that changes in HR and respiration are rather minor, and clearly associated with arousal/excitement associated with ride onset but not nausea. Finger SCL rise is substantial but is also arousal-related. In contrast, SCL in the forehead does not increase until moderate nausea is developed. (From Gavgani et al. Profiling subjective symptoms and autonomic changes associated with cybersickness. Auton Neurosci 2017)

Exposure Therapy - Monitoring virtual reality exposure treatment of phobias

Project Name: VRET: Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy

Project Overview: Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) has gained popularity as an efficient and cost-effective treatment for a variety of fears and phobias. Project lead Dr Jill Newby is a highly experienced clinical psychologist with broad expertise in technology-based interventions for mental health disorders. She currently trials VRET in patients with acrophobia (fear of heights) by exposing them to 360-degree videos containing provocative content (e.g. video on the Westfield Sydney Tower observation floor – see link).

Our collaboration aims to supplement VRET with objective measurements of physiological arousal. We hypothesise that in susceptible individuals, provocative content elicits substantial increases in heart rate, respiratory rate and skin conductance. We expect that repetitive VR exposure will lead to the reduction of these responses, and thus biomarker monitoring may be useful for objective assessment of VRET progress.

Collaborator / Partners / Funding:

Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Relevant Links:

Exposure Therapy

Screenshot from Sydney Tower 360 video

Health Projects

Tactics VR - Streamlined workflow management for acute stroke care

Project Name: VR-based Training in Management of Acute Stroke

Project Overview: This study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a “package intervention” in providing better access for patients in remote areas to reperfusion therapies following acute stroke. As part of this study, ATS developed and implemented a VR training tool to be deployed to junior medical officers, to train them in the optimal processing of an acute stroke patient coming to hospital.

The VR training tool offers an immersive environment where users are taken through a virtual stroke patient’s journey. The program includes video commentary by experts, assisted collection of relevant information, evaluation of representative imaging and treatment decision-making and support, as well as feedback on user performance to enhance learning experience.

Beyond the VR module, we have developed a comprehensive training environment. This includes a supporting website and reporting environment, with access to instructions and additional resources and automated capture of VR usage and user performance.

Collaborator / Partners / Funding:

Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Relevant Links:

Tactics

Paediatric Distraction Tool – Virtual reality to reduce pain relief treatment in children

Project Name: Paediatric Distraction Therapy

Project Overview: This project aims to implement VR as a distraction therapy for children undergoing painful injections.

Nobody likes injections, especially children. Many parents will tell you that the routine immunization visits are an unpleasant affair. This multiplies when a child has numerous medical conditions, has difficulties in many aspects of their daily life and must receive painful intramuscular injections as part of their rehabilitative care.

VR can effectively reduce pain in a range of medical procedures. Dr Timothy Scott (HNE KidsRehab) highlighted the need for additional, non-pharmacological analgesic options for paediatric patients at the John Hunter Children’s Hospital botox injection clinic. He proposed that VR technology may provide better patient health outcomes. The Centre for Advanced Training Systems (ATS) have formed a collaborative alliance with the clinical team, with the common goal of co-designing and implementing VR as a distraction therapy for this patient group.

Collaborator / Partners / Funding:

Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Centre for Advanced Training Systems

Cybersickness - Uncovering mechanisms and developing treatments for motion sickness

Project Name: Biomarkers of Cybersickness

Project Overview: Cybersickness is a subtype of motion sickness caused by exposure to provocative VR content (e.g. content mimicking significant accelerations). We performed detailed clinical and physiological assessment of cybersickness using a virtual rollercoaster scenario (see image). The majority of our volunteers requested to terminate the ride in less than 10 minutes. We also performed the first direct comparison study of cybersickness with motion-induced motion sickness; reporting that in both instances nausea is accompanied by a selective increase of sweating on the forehead region (link). Using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), we also found that cybersickness is associated with dramatic changes in brain blood flow (haemodynamics).

In collaboration with Otolith Labs, a US-based start-up company, we are now testing an innovative wearable device to prevent motion sickness through non-invasive Vestibular System Masking.

This project is led by Dr Shamus Smith.

Collaborator / Partners / Funding: 

Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Relevant Links:

Cybersickness

An image of VR content used in our studies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUtHvzNTTNo

Cybersickness

An example of physiological recordings  obtained during the VR simulated ride  on a rollervoaster . Traces (from top to bottom): heart rate, respiratory signal, respiratory rate, finger skin conductance level (SCL) tonic, finger SCL phasic, forehead SCL tonic, forehead SCL phasic. The first and the last vertical lines indicate the start and the end of virtual ride, respectively. Numbers above other lines indicate nausea level experienced by the subjects. Note that changes in HR and respiration are rather minor, and clearly associated with arousal/excitement associated with ride onset but not nausea. Finger SCL rise is substantial but is also arousal-related. In contrast, SCL in the forehead does not increase until moderate nausea is developed. (From Gavgani et al. Profiling subjective symptoms and autonomic changes associated with cybersickness. Auton Neurosci 2017)

Exposure Therapy - Monitoring virtual reality exposure treatment of phobias

Project Name: VRET: Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy

Project Overview: Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) has gained popularity as an efficient and cost-effective treatment for a variety of fears and phobias. Project lead Dr Jill Newby is a highly experienced clinical psychologist with broad expertise in technology-based interventions for mental health disorders. She currently trials VRET in patients with acrophobia (fear of heights) by exposing them to 360-degree videos containing provocative content (e.g. video on the Westfield Sydney Tower observation floor – see link).

Our collaboration aims to supplement VRET with objective measurements of physiological arousal. We hypothesise that in susceptible individuals, provocative content elicits substantial increases in heart rate, respiratory rate and skin conductance. We expect that repetitive VR exposure will lead to the reduction of these responses, and thus biomarker monitoring may be useful for objective assessment of VRET progress.

Collaborator / Partners / Funding:

Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Relevant Links:

Exposure Therapy

Screenshot from Sydney Tower 360 video

Education Projects

Step - Tailored development and evaluation of new VR teaching tools across multiple University of Newcastle courses

Project Name: Digital Simulation Technology Evaluation Program (STEP)

Project Overview: STEP is a University-wide program and a key initiative of the NEW Education Framework assessing the potential of mixed-reality (XR) technologies as a scalable teaching resource within the university. The Program includes multiple lines of activity to address questions on how to integrate XR technologies in future curriculum at The University of Newcastle (UON):

  • Capturing general wants, needs, values, concerns and barriers of the technology via a student- and staff-wide general attitude survey
  • Learning from existing XR teaching applications via interviews with ‘early-adopter’ teaching staff involved in the creation of existing applications
  • Bringing together a community of practise and encouraging open communications and exchange through the “Virtual Reality in Teaching” symposium
  • Developing a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis on the use of XR as a teaching tool, through the design, development and implementation of 4 pilot XR teaching applications across diverse UoN degree programs

Data obtained collectively from these activities will inform the development of a structured business plan on how XR technology can be integrated and used in the future at UoN and findings will be reported through academic publications.

Collaborator / Partners / Funding:

  • The University of Newcastle– Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic (DVC-A) – funding

Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Centre for Advanced Training Systems

 

Education Projects

Step - Tailored development and evaluation of new VR teaching tools across multiple University of Newcastle courses

Project Name: Digital Simulation Technology Evaluation Program (STEP)

Project Overview: STEP is a University-wide program and a key initiative of the NEW Education Framework assessing the potential of mixed-reality (XR) technologies as a scalable teaching resource within the university. The Program includes multiple lines of activity to address questions on how to integrate XR technologies in future curriculum at The University of Newcastle (UON):

  • Capturing general wants, needs, values, concerns and barriers of the technology via a student- and staff-wide general attitude survey
  • Learning from existing XR teaching applications via interviews with ‘early-adopter’ teaching staff involved in the creation of existing applications
  • Bringing together a community of practise and encouraging open communications and exchange through the “Virtual Reality in Teaching” symposium
  • Developing a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis on the use of XR as a teaching tool, through the design, development and implementation of 4 pilot XR teaching applications across diverse UoN degree programs

Data obtained collectively from these activities will inform the development of a structured business plan on how XR technology can be integrated and used in the future at UoN and findings will be reported through academic publications.

Collaborator / Partners / Funding:

  • The University of Newcastle– Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic (DVC-A) – funding

Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Centre for Advanced Training Systems

Defence Projects

Performance Edge VR – Repetitive practical training of stress management skills using a biofeedback-enabled virtual reality training platform

Project Name: A Cost-Effective Virtual Reality Approach To Assess And Train Stress Management Skills (Performance Edge VR)

Project Overview: Performance Edge VR is a comprehensive, biometrically-enhanced virtual reality program that trains stress-management and pro-resilience skills.

Performance Edge VR was developed as an additional tool to address a recognised need for practical, scalable and flexible deployment of ongoing training.  It as a modular, structured training platform that creates an immersive and engaging environment to practice and consolidate learned skills. Each module covers a different evidence-based stress management technique or concept (e.g. controlled breathing) and includes elements for knowledge transfer, basic skill acquisition and skill consolidation.

Each Performance Edge module undergoes extensive user-testing and evaluation prior to integration into the final training platform.

Further, development of the Performance Edge VR program has initiated several related research projects on how we engage and interact with VR as a training tool and adaptation of training programs to different target audiences.

Collaborator / Partners / Funding:

 Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Dr. Murielle Kluge (Murielle.Kluge@Newcastle.edu.au)

Relevant Links:

FRICS – Inner state monitoring and performance feedback in free roam combat training

Project Name: Free Roam Immersive Combat Simulation (FRICS)

Project Overview: The FRICS project aims to enhance current combat training practices by capturing real-time performance and biometrics data (e.g. heart rate) coupled with Free-Roam Virtual Reality (FRVR) as a training tool.

FRVR is a technology that allows users (individually or in groups / teams) to freely move un-tethered through a real-world space wearing a VR headset. Movement is then displayed accurately in a virtual space (e.g. combat scenario). Training in the FRVR environment allows for a greater depth of performance analysis and provides the opportunity to investigate the impact of the internal state and stress management skills on external performance.

Collaborator / Partners / Funding:

  • Australian Defence Force

Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Relevant Links:

Centre for Advanced Training Systems

 

Cognitive Overload – Objective performance and monitoring for complex integrative real-time task-loading

Project Name: Biomarkers of cognitive overload

Project Overview: In the modern world, numerous civil and military occupations require making decisions under conditions of high cognitive demand. When a decision-maker can comfortably process information provided to them in a given time-frame, cognitive load is considered low. In contrast, as the amount of information increases or the time available decreases, cognitive load is increased. For every decision-maker, there is a critical point at which no further information can effectively be processed or considered. This situation is termed ‘cognitive overload’.

Our aim is to develop a non-obtrusive biomarker of cognitive overload. We propose that such biomarkers would be useful to allow monitoring of decision-makers and in reduce errors. We will combine continuous cognitive monitoring with advanced cardiovascular assessment during cognitive load testing using a system based on previous models developed by the US National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA).

Collaborators / Partners / Funding:

Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Relevant Links:

Cedar-OWAT – NASA-based cognitive load test comprising communication, system monitoring and resource management components

 

Defence Projects

Performance Edge VR – Repetitive practical training of stress management skills using a biofeedback-enabled virtual reality training platform

Project Name: A Cost-Effective Virtual Reality Approach To Assess And Train Stress Management Skills (Performance Edge VR)

Project Overview: Performance Edge VR is a comprehensive, biometrically-enhanced virtual reality program that trains stress-management and pro-resilience skills.

Performance Edge VR was developed as an additional tool to address a recognised need for practical, scalable and flexible deployment of ongoing training.  It as a modular, structured training platform that creates an immersive and engaging environment to practice and consolidate learned skills. Each module covers a different evidence-based stress management technique or concept (e.g. controlled breathing) and includes elements for knowledge transfer, basic skill acquisition and skill consolidation.

Each Performance Edge module undergoes extensive user-testing and evaluation prior to integration into the final training platform.

Further, development of the Performance Edge VR program has initiated several related research projects on how we engage and interact with VR as a training tool and adaptation of training programs to different target audiences.

Collaborator / Partners / Funding:

 Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Dr. Murielle Kluge (Murielle.Kluge@Newcastle.edu.au)

Relevant Links:

FRICS – Inner state monitoring and performance feedback in free roam combat training

Project Name: Free Roam Immersive Combat Simulation (FRICS)

Project Overview: The FRICS project aims to enhance current combat training practices by capturing real-time performance and biometrics data (e.g. heart rate) coupled with Free-Roam Virtual Reality (FRVR) as a training tool.

FRVR is a technology that allows users (individually or in groups / teams) to freely move un-tethered through a real-world space wearing a VR headset. Movement is then displayed accurately in a virtual space (e.g. combat scenario). Training in the FRVR environment allows for a greater depth of performance analysis and provides the opportunity to investigate the impact of the internal state and stress management skills on external performance.

Collaborator / Partners / Funding:

  • Australian Defence Force

Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Relevant Links:

Centre for Advanced Training Systems

Cognitive Overload – Objective performance and monitoring for complex integrative real-time task-loading

Project Name: Biomarkers of cognitive overload

Project Overview: In the modern world, numerous civil and military occupations require making decisions under conditions of high cognitive demand. When a decision-maker can comfortably process information provided to them in a given time-frame, cognitive load is considered low. In contrast, as the amount of information increases or the time available decreases, cognitive load is increased. For every decision-maker, there is a critical point at which no further information can effectively be processed or considered. This situation is termed ‘cognitive overload’.

Our aim is to develop a non-obtrusive biomarker of cognitive overload. We propose that such biomarkers would be useful to allow monitoring of decision-makers and in reduce errors. We will combine continuous cognitive monitoring with advanced cardiovascular assessment during cognitive load testing using a system based on previous models developed by the US National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA).

Collaborators / Partners / Funding:

Primary ATS Project Officer(s) & Contact:

Relevant Links:

Cedar-OWAT – NASA-based cognitive load test comprising communication, system monitoring and resource management components

If you are interested in developing a specific training programme in collaboration with the Centre for Advanced Training Systems (ATS), we would like to hear from you. Please send us an email or access the Contact Us page to get in touch with our team.

Designing, Developing and Implementing Next Generation Training

Centre for Advanced Training Systems
Learn About the Centre

Learn About the Centre

The Centre for Advanced Training Systems brings together researchers, educators and technology experts to provide tailored end-to-end project management.

Learn About Specific Projects

Learn About Specific Projects

The Centre for Advanced Training Systems (ATS) activities are funded on a project-specific basis and focus on improving workplace training in three main areas: Defence, Health and Education.

Learn About the Team

Learn About the Team

Our focus is on working with organisations to develop, implement and evaluate new training approaches that take advantage of digital platforms, particularly digital simulation platforms.

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Centre for Advanced Training Systems

Funding: The Centre for Advanced Training Systems (ATS) is based at The University of Newcastle. ATS activities are made possible through project-specific funding, as outlined in the Projects pages.