Tufts University had a goal to expand the breadth of its research to better understand dynamics among small collaborative teams. Along with other university partners, Tufts founded the Center for Applied Brain & Cognitive Sciences in 2015, a research initiative to understand how people make decisions and interact in difficult situations. The team wanted to monitor, analyze, and understand how individuals and teams:
- Perform in real-world, high-stress simulations when introduced with new simulated technologies
- Respond when relating to technologies and operational capabilities
- Engage in varied environments, scenarios, and tasks with varying levels of support, testing how advanced technology impacts human performance
Tufts partnered with Mechdyne Corporation to develop technology solutions in the SUAVE (Small Unit Ambulatory Virtual Environments Lab), allowing teams to collaborate together in a simulated, virtual reality environment.
Mechdyne designed, built, and integrated three CAVE™ systems that link together via Mechdyne’s getReal3D for Unity software plug-in. The three separate systems are each made up of five screens, stretching nine feet tall in a 250-degree semicircle. Users experience simulated environments in the approximately 113-square-foot space. Three individuals, one in each “pod,” are represented by avatars, so each individual can see their teammates in the virtual environment. In a collaborative experience unlike any other, the individuals perform training simulations that include nonverbal communication and teamwork. By including three separate virtual environments, individuals can engage with each other simultaneously while practicing nonverbal and visual cues. Due to getReal3D for Unity, researchers were able to transfer their legacy Unity content into the SUAVE Lab. Through these simulations, Tufts will better understand, predict, and optimize human performance and human-machine interaction in high-stakes environments.