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Study: Stress Assessment in Virtual Reality


As part of the SHOTPROS project the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) and University of Heidelberg (UHEI) conducted a stress measurement study in close collaboration with a participating law enforcement agency (LEA) Polizei Berlin.

The aim of the study was to investigate physiological responses to common stress cues, identified by the project in a previous study, in virtual environments. The results will help optimise VR training scenarios of the SHOTPROS project in order to train attention and conscious decision making and acting in stressful and threatening situations.

Stress was assessed through subjective reports (e.g. Task Load Index, Visual Analogues scales) and physiological measures (e.g. heart rate variability, respiration rate, saliva samples for alpha-amylase and cortisol, eye movements, etc.). To ensure participants’ exposure to relevant stress cues a VR research prototype was built by the AIT team.

Being able to extend current police training methods with innovative VR solutions, in order to increase attention and the ability to decide and act appropriate under stress, has several advantages including:

  • effectiveness, with the option to customise training experiences depending on the individuals needs and the possibility to give trainees thorough feedback based on biological measures
  • efficiency, with the possibility to create stress cues in several different environments and levels of stress in relatively short time
  • safety, through training in controlled environments with adjustable threats and stress cues

The information and data gathered is currently being analysed and will soon be shared with LEA partners.

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