Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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Firefighters are training in VR to keep cool

Firefighters are training in VR to keep cool

Humanity conquered fire, but its real achievement has been avoiding the need to come in direct contact with flames unless it is altogether necessary. When I was a kid, for instance, the fire department would wheel around its simulation trailer from school to school, and you’d crawl through the fake smoke (emphasis on fake.) Trial by fire is, luckily for most of us, just an expression.

Life is a little more complicated for aspiring firefighters (or, as I like to call them, soon-to-be Bachelorette participants). They will have to deal with fire at some point in their careers. At the same time, it’s important not to crisp up their skin in training. This is not the easiest of balances to strike. Enter VR:

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service unveiled to the public its computer-based Incident Command Suite this week, which allows participants to interact with virtual reality scenarios mimicking real-life disasters.

The simulator is set up across two separate rooms – in one room, staff are presented with a scenario, displayed via a projector, which they can walk around and interact with using a controller similar to a computer game.

In another room a group of trainers play the role of people in the simulated world which the “player” can interact with and speak to.

All of this seems fair enough. Simulators allow participants to get a certain amount of training with a lower risk of death. That sounds like a good thing. Of course none of this is really new. Simulators predate VR, including the one the fire department used to wheel up to my school. The basic logic was the same before you could strap expensive bits of tech to your face. But now they can do more. That may be good for safety, but we needn’t pretend that the wheel is being reinvented.

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