oKat-SIM - AR-supported crisis team training

The oKat-Sim project introduces augmented reality to disaster management training. Authentic simulations support decision-makers in effective preparations for emergencies.

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Project completion:
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When natural disasters occur in Germany, such as flooding, landslides or forest fires, crisis teams are formed. These consist not only of experts who are familiar with relevant procedures, but also of senior staff from various departments of the municipal administration. The teams are then required to make decisions they have often never had to make before, on the basis on data and information with which they may not be familiar. Authentic training can currently only be achieved by use of elaborate simulation games, to which few employees have access.

The CX Studio research group at the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF developed this augmented reality app as part of the oKat-SIM project. The project’s goal was to enrich crisis team training with an authentic and easily-integrated Augmented Reality version of such a simulation game. Facilitated by an experienced crisis team trainer, interactive holographic maps and animations make it easy for the participants to understand the temporal and spatial events at hand, and facilitate comparison with abstract representations such as situation maps. Teams learn to weigh consequences and are supported in making far-reaching decisions under time pressure.

Our app enables trainers to integrate a complex and authentic simulation scenario into the training. It contextualises geoscientific data and processes and makes them comprehensible for non-experts. Augmented Reality ‘HoloLens 2’ glasses make the data appear as a three-dimensional, interactive holographic model. Participants can view the model from all angles and so so derive a spatial understanding of the scenario, intuitively controlling the app with hand gestures, and actively exploring decisions and observing their effects.

A large part of the interaction is designed using large QR codes which enables the simultaneous synchronisation of all participants. In this way, crisis team members collectively discuss and decide relevant issues, such as which areas to evacuate or how to best react to sudden events; resulting changes are immediately simulated on the model.

This interactive learning opportunity ensures that heightened awareness of the possible consequences of action or inaction is brought to the forefront via the immersive disaster experience, and that crisis team members are prepared more effectively to weigh decisions in an emergency.

oKat-SIM is a serious game using playful elements and video game technology to achieve a lasting learning effect among participants. Social interaction via the simulation model is an elementary component of the training concept, as is the role of the trainer, who acts as a game master and can flexibly adapt the training scenario and the course of the game to the group.

oKat-SIM had the objective of making geoscientific findings usable in the training of crisis teams and was carried out in cooperation with the Film University, the University of Potsdam, UP Transfer, KSK Stabskonzepte and the University of Lübeck under the coordination of the Institute for Geosciences at the University of Potsdam. The resulting application was successfully tested several times under authentic conditions by professional crisis team trainers and participants from local authorities, and their feedback led to continual improvements.

Project duration: August 2019 to October 2022

Funding: BMBF - Funding "Virtual and Augmented Reality in vocational education".

Project team Filmuniversität: Prof. Dr. Björn Stockleben (head), David Schornsheim (software development and interaction design), Miriam Jud (graphic and interaction design), Jonna Lehtomaa (video production and 3D modelling support)

Project Website: https://okat-sim.geo.uni-potsdam.de/