Guns shots are heard overhead. Something whips by your left ear. The scent of something burning is realized and as you turn your head mounted display, the scene in front of your eyes change. Welcome to the new world of immersive training. Here role players are swapped for computer generated actors and urban terrain is replaced with on-screen graphics, coupled with sensory technologies like scent generators aimed to replace the fidelity of training with simulated sensory stimuli.
Resources, real estate and budgetary constraints are the main drivers behind this transition from an outdoor landscape to inside a simulator, as well as technological advancements.
The trick, though, is ensuring you are integrating enough sensory data to assist in curriculum retention. We are, after all, still training here. And not for your grandfather’s wars. Insurgency, terrorism and asymmetrical warfare have come to define an entire new way of fighting that we’ve never seen before.
The delivery of education is changing. Human psychology is transforming in ways we’ve never seen before. Our understanding of the resilience of memory and human nature has never been more sophisticated. But the way we learn is not different. Our cognitive processes still demand certain kinds of stimuli, in varying order and especially within certain contexts.
In this transition from large scale immersive training to a more intimate experience, there is a risk of a loss of fidelity. Replacing real life scenarios with on-screen realities may forget that sights and sounds do not encapsulate a context for retention. “To be readily accessible, a memory needs to have multiple, relevant retrieval cues.” Heightened memory recall requires a richness and depth in retrieval cues. Immersive training means more than darkening the outside world with a pair of glasses. It demands multiple sensory stimuli (e.g. smells, sounds, feeling) for battles this world has never before seen.