War’s terrifying reality made virtual by Red Cross
By Jiraporn Kuhakan
BANGKOK (Reuters) - The crack of a sniper round strikes terror as you crouch behind a cinder-block wall.
An explosion rips into your ear drums. Down the street a building collapses into dust. A helicopter gunship emerges through the smoke, leaving nowhere to hide.
This is not a real battle, however, but a virtual reality simulation evolved by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help train those who work in war zones.
"We had some people who tested our product from Syria and they could not finish one of the exercise simulations because for them it was too close to what they have experienced," said Christian Rouffaer, the head of the ICRC's virtual reality unit.
"With VR goggles, we can get very strong reactions," he told Reuters in Bangkok, the Thai capital, where the programming team is based.
Although the mass market for virtual reality has yet to achieve the most dramatic forecasts that surrounded the launch of Facebook Inc.'s Oculus Rift and Sony Corp.'s Playstation VR over two years ago, it is increasingly finding uses for specialist training.
"Ninety percent of activity in this unit is to create very serious training tools to teach all staff and partners, such as Red Cross and Red Cross societies, things like first aid and security," Rouffaer said.
Simulations include treating the wounded amid the confusion of battle. Those supplement hands-on first aid training and would otherwise be very hard to replicate, let alone on a big scale.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has an estimated 12 million volunteers worldwide. It is usually those volunteers who are first on the scene to help in conflict.
The environments the ICRC's virtual reality team creates are generic rather than featuring specific countries, but they are based on video shot in conflict zones.
Another project is building a video game to give players the experience of a battlefield with large numbers of civilians - a departure from the top-selling combat video games.
As the world's conflicts increasingly take place in urban areas, the vast majority of casualties are civilians rather than combatants, the Red Cross says.
The game will reflect that.
"It is not just about running around and shooting people, which is normally the objective of most games," Rouffaer said.
(The story corrects in paragraph 9 to say 'International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement' from 'International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies')
(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
More Top Stories
Former top FBI official Andrew McCabe decried the “relentless attack” he said U.S. President Donald Trump has launched against the agency, according to released excerpts …read more
CBS’s Lara Logan Calls Media ‘Mostly Liberal’ in Scorched Earth Interview: I’m Committing ‘Professional Suicide’
In a recent interview, CBS News Foreign Correspondent Lara Logancritiqued the international “liberal” media while holding up outlets like Breitbart as the opposite side of …read more
An ambush by gunmen from a faction of Los Zetas killed one Mexican soldier and injured two others in Nuevo Laredo.read more
The commander of U.S.-backed forces in Syria called on Monday for about 1,000 to 1,500 international forces to remain in Syria to help fight Islamic …read more
U.S. President Donald Trump will say in a speech on Monday that Venezuela’s path toward democracy is irreversible and that Venezuelan military officials should work …read more
Seven Labour lawmakers quit Britain’s main opposition party on Monday over leader Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Brexit and a row over anti-Semitism, saying Labour had …read more