Practice is an important component to learning. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) allow personnel to train for situations where it is difficult or unethical to recreate real-world scenarios. VR and AR tools are being used by law enforcement and medical personnel to practice their craft. Ongoing research shows the benefits of practicing via VR and AR simulation. Our mission is to design an application that uses AR to provide a simulation environment in which emergency teams can practice their evacuation and emergency procedures and protocols real-life scenarios.

Personnel who work in venues are required to know their evacuation and emergency procedures and protocols. In the heat of the moment it can be difficult to remember what to do when practice does not match the actual situation. The objective is mastering existing protocols to free cognitive resources allowing the personnel to handle unexpected disruptions in the predetermined protocol.

What it does

Out Safe allows a venue’s organization to create its own training sessions. The administrator can mark exit doors, safe rooms, and corners to create the layout for the venue. The administrator can then add an evacuation (fire) or emergency event (active shooter) to any part of the venue. When the staff opens the AR application in the venue and scans around they will be able to see icons that indicate the event being practiced and will also be able to scan and see icons that indicate exits that are usable (green door) and not usable (red door). While the staff is using the application, a timer will be running that logs how long it takes them to get to safety. Once each staff member completes the training session, the staff member presses a green “I am safe” button which stops the timer ending the session.

How we built it

  • We conducted research about typical evacuation and emergency situations that would be practiced by venue staff
  • We discussed the limitations of our tech stack and time to narrow down the features
  • We figured out that the audience of the app would be venue personnel who are being trained by an administrator
  • We mapped out a workflow for both the administrator and the trainees using Sketch
  • The backend was built first to have a clear idea of the data models and relationships
  • We built an intermediate tool to aid scenario creation in real time and was later integrated into the functionality of the main application
  • The main application was built last, based on the Sketch designs and scaling the data models and user flows

Challenges we ran into

  • There were technical challenges in the technologies we used: accuracy and reliability of GPS, ARKit reliability inside a building, successfully syncing backend data with front end UI changes
  • We needed to decide on the correct user base at the start of the app, instead of debating over the target audience and the features to focus on

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • Backend team had a clean design, and built out a framework very quickly using Firebase and node.js
  • We had a very good division of labor with a well-balanced team including designers, developers, and dreamers
  • We came up with a simple interface and were able to implement it very closely to the design
  • Multiple team members were able to learn something new and work on a technology they were unfamiliar with before the project

What we learned

  • GPS has a very high degree of accuracy outdoors
  • WIFI hotspots have a very consistent predetermined GPS location
  • Rachel learned to program in Swift
  • John learned to implement node, deploy functions on Firebase, and implement an intermediate API layer in node running on a Heroku server
  • Bobby gained experience in using ARKit

What's next for Out Safe

There are a lot of technical challenges related to the accuracy of GPS and WIFI which are not necessarily handled by ARKit and our current solution. More technical creativity is needed for a solution that will accurately provide a visual training platform. However, the idea of using ARKit for training is much easier than other solutions to emergency evac; because it deals with prevention rather than reaction, there is a lot more leeway for timing and setup requirements. It would be interesting to see whether venues at Drexel would be interested in continuing to pursue this as a technical solution.

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