Immersive technologies: A future way to train and prepare employees for achieving agency missions

January 30, 2020

By Katie Malague and Munjeet Singh

Imagine you are an Army medic at a makeshift battlefield hospital seeking to treat numerous injured soldiers caught in an ambush. You need to quickly stop their bleeding, treat their wounds and stabilize the patients in a matter of minutes.

You start on your first patient and work carefully, but quickly, to check all the boxes as you follow the required protocols. A green checkmark pops up on a device you are using to guide you through the process as you treat one soldier after another.

Then you remove the goggles that placed you in this virtual reality.

You are not on the battlefield, but in a training room surrounded by your peers and getting real-time feedback from an instructor about how you responded to the challenges you faced in the virtual world.

This example is just one way immersive technologies could transform how federal employees train and prepare for achieving their agency missions.

Immersive technologies are a collection of technologies that change or enhance our physical environment to different degrees. They include augmented reality, which creates a real-world environment with added digital content, and virtual reality, which completely immerses an individual in a recreated or imaginary environment—such as placing the Army medic in a room full of injured soldiers waiting to be treated.

Agencies already are benefiting from these technologies. At a November 19 event co-hosted by the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton, Army Lt. Col. Seth Wheeler described how his agency has developed immersive technology pilot programs and exploratory use-cases—in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton—that range from special operations tactical skills and medical trauma training to parachute and airborne operations training.

And Kevin Karem from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said immersive technologies allow trainees to visualize and experience working with dangerous germs and chemicals without being placed in harm’s way. Other uses include the Department of Veterans Affairs treating patients with post-traumatic stress disorder by putting them back in a traumatic moment and allowing them to process that experience with a therapist in real-time. NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration have used the technology to build virtual air traffic control towers to test new and safe ways to improve air traffic flow.

As more agencies consider how immersive technologies can help them achieve their missions, experts at the November event noted the following keys to success:

  • Garnering leadership buy-in for implementation.
  • Securing long-term resources to invest in the technology.
  • Sustaining funds and support to continually upgrade the technology to stay effective.

To help agencies take advantage of immersive technologies and other cutting-edge innovations, the Partnership and Booz Allen will host two more events between February and April 2020. Each event in the series will explore a different technology, discuss its possibilities, outline barriers to adoption and ways to overcome them, and provide immediate steps agencies can take to get ahead of the curve.

Sign up for the next event, YouAI: Propelling Insights and Actions Through Artificial Intelligence, on February 27, 2020, from 8:30–11:00 a.m. To get more information about the events, please email Madeleine Lowe at mlowe@ourpublicservice.org.

Katie Malague is vice president for government effectiveness at the Partnership for Public Service.

Munjeet Singh is a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton.