B.C. Tech Company Uses Virtual Reality to Train People for Bear Safety

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Seeing a 270-kilogram grizzly bear charging at you can make you freeze in place. However, a tech company in Prince George, British Columbia hopes that people will learn how to respond fast in case they face the huge teddy bear.

Surviving the Encounter of a Grizzly Bear with VR Lessons

Kelly O’Neil is the CEO of VR Safety Training Solutions, explaining that the traditional training is dull:

“We realized that a lot of the training you have to take is a little bit mind numbing, and we thought there must a better way to teach and a more effective way to teach.”

Using a virtual reality headset and controller, participants immerse in a game where they encounter a grizzly bear. The scene is idyllic, accompanied by sound effects. Except for the bear charging at you with incredible speed, it all looks heavenly. The user must immediately use the controller to use the spray on the bear.

We don’t know how many people will have a small heart attack by enterin the virtual world, but training in VR to have a fast response is better than to be mauled by a real bear in the woods…

O’Neil admitted that only by replicating the experience of fear, people would learn in the classroom to act fast:

“That’s part of our goal, was that people would get that feeling [of fear]. If you’re able to practice when you know what could happen and you have in your mind what could happen and what you need to do, then you’re going to be better prepared [in real life].”

Prepared for A Grizzly in Real Life

Chief Technical Officer Pete McKeen has encountered a large grizzly once, and it was 300 meters away:

“He saw me and he just came, and there was no stopping him. It’s hard to really explain what goes through your head when that happens.”

He added that reading and training in a classroom couldn’t prepare you for how fast the bears are when they charge at you. McKeen believes that VR technology is a good way to apply training for dangerous situations, not just wildlife encounters.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere

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