02 september 2007

VR testing

Meet the new neuropsychologist
Virtual Reality Cognitive Performance Assessment Test (VRCPAT) The vision of the VRCPAT is to use VR simulation technology to create a battery of tests that assess the specific cognitive components that underlie all facets of successful military performance. Such cognitive components include attention, memory, executive functioning, spatial ability and a host of higher-level language and reasoning abilities. If successful in this pursuit, such flexibility would support the use of this system as an open platform on which a wide range of research questions could be addressed that would have significance to the Army. These include the manipulation of: the relevance, complexity, similarity, vagueness, sensory properties, and temporal constraints of information load imposed during initial information acquisition phases; distracting stimulus events that occur during the various attention and memory acquisition phases; the time constraints during the the attention and memory retrieval phases; the reward structure during performance trials; the presentation of aversive stimuli during test trials for stressed performance evaluations; and the presentation of complex multiple attention/action competition tasks during test trials to begin to address executive function processes. Once the psychometric properties of these norm-based tests are established, the Army would have a comprehensive, flexible and scalable VR assessment system that could be extended to investigate a substantial set of pragmatic military performance assessment questions. For example, the cognitive components that govern decision making under varying stimulus conditions of cognitive load, fatigue, altitude, and stress induction could be evaluated with this system. As well, the VRCPAT would provide a set of cognitive benchmarking tasks that could be used as standard measurements for other military human performance research. The rationale for VR applications in the area of cognitive performance assessment is fairly straightforward. By analogy, much like an aircraft simulator serves to test (and train) piloting ability under a variety of systematic and controlled conditions, virtual environments (VEs) can be developed to present simulations that assess integrated human cognitive and functional performance within the context of simulated situations that are specifically relevant to military criterion performance goals. Such VR applications have the potential to improve our capacity to understand and measure the cognitive performance of military personnel in a manner that informs selection, placement and training decisions, and could drive future training application development. One effort in this direction is the use of VR to create cost-effective simulations of relevant military challenges that can be used to train a variety of skills and processes. The goal of the current project is three fold: 1) to further evolve the development of a VR cognitive performance assessment test (VRCPAT) to measure prospective memory with the Prospective Memory Module (PMM) that used recycled graphic assets created for the FSW training tool and other available ICT assets. 2) In similar fashion to the approach taken in the creation of the PPM, we intend to use the city scenario built in GFY 06 for this purpose, to create a comprehensive assessment of context-relevant components of attention (i.e., selective, sustained, alternating and divided). The Comprehensive Attention Module (CAM). 3) Based on results from these tests, being to explore the feasibility and design of a test of executive functioning. The longer-term goal of this project would be to develop a comprehensive, standardized, norm-based battery of VR cognitive performance tests that have contextual relevance for military challenges. The primary aim of this effort is to provide better prediction and scientific analysis of the cognitive processes that underlie real-world military-relevant performance compared to what is available with traditional psychometric tests. Another of the many advantages that VR offers cognitive application development is in the ability to create virtual simulations that could replace the process of building costly physical mock-ups of functional environments, often relied on for mission critical human performance testing and training. The primary strength that VR offers testing and training is in the creation of simulated functional environments, within which, performance can be evaluated in a systematic fashion. One of the early aims of the VRCPAT project was to create a city VE from the already existing ICT Full Spectrum Warrior library of graphic assets and from other specifically tailored assets as the basis for producing the PMM.

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