NIST Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge

Design a physical measurement environment that uses immersive virtual reality tools for testing new first responder technologies Read Overview...

Evolving technologies have the potential to revolutionize how first responders do their jobs. Will heads-up-displays guide firefighters through smoke-filled buildings while smart glasses link EMS with doctors in real time?  What if a vest that collects vital signs and provides haptic feedback could keep police officers safer?


These exciting new technologies can’t be implemented without testing and verification. That is the genesis of this challenge. How do you test if a technology is helpful inside of a burning building without actually having a fire?  Do smart glasses get in the way of responding to an emergency? Testing to collect this data must be performed in a way that is safe, controlled and repeatable.


The Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge, sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Public Safety Innovation Accelerator, is crowdsourcing ideas and designs for measurement environments that use immersive virtual reality tools in conjunction with physical spaces to simulate first responder scenarios for accurate and repeatable testing of new first responder interfaces and technologies.


What is a Public Safety Virtual Test Environment?

A first responder can't safely enter a smoke-filled room with a live fire for testing, how do you simulate a realistic experience while maintaining safety?  Is physical feedback, like a hot wall, needed?  Can the smoke and flames be a part of a scene displayed in a virtual reality headset? Using NIST’s scenarios and interfaces for testing, your great ideas are needed to construct the simulation. Imagine creating a physical space in which ideal components, technologies, and interfaces are used together to make the most optimal environment for providing first responders a scientifically repeatable, measurable space that takes public safety experiences into consideration.

The best answers to these problems could come from a range of specialties - which makes it all the more exciting. Wherever the winning design comes from, public safety will have taken a huge step into the future once it is made available.


What Can You Do Right Now?

  • Read the complete challenge guidelines to see the rules and requirements for entry into the challenge.
  • “Accept Challenge” by clicking the orange button above to compete in the challenge. 
  • "Follow" the challenge above to be notified of any status updates to the challenge.
  • Share this challenge with your friends and family or anyone who might be interested. You can use the Share button above to share this page.
  • Start a conversation in our Forum to join the conversation, ask questions or connect with other innovators.
Updates 14

A Breakthrough in First Responders Technology!

June 12, 2017, 11 a.m. PDT by Paul Musille

The time has come for the $50,000 NIST Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge - we have the winners!


It’s been a whirlwind of a competition. In just 60 short days, a community came together around a very technical and specific ask: Design a physical measurement environment that uses immersive virtual reality tools for testing new first responder technologies. By the submission deadline, we had received 21 completed entries to the challenge and built up a following of over 700 people. Impressive work for any crowdsourcing project, and even more so given a tight timeline!

And now, after careful review by our judging panel and a public vote, the top award recipients are as follows:


$20,000 Prize

Jason Jerald’s solution - FirstSimVR:Measuring Future Tools Using Today's VR -

A reconfigurable VR platform for evaluating and refining future technologies to be used for different first-responder scenarios.


$12,000 Prize

Zach Huber’s solution - Reconfigurable Vehicle Training System -

Training system including a virtually reconfigurable vehicle and physical mannequin with environmental factors (smell, weather, etc.).


$8,000 Prize

UNSN’s solution - MultiVRse - Parallel Physical and VR Universes -

Auto VR visualisation matching the physical space, untethered & unbounded VR, interaction with real & VR objects, no cameras needed + more!


$5,000 Prize

Kirk McKinzie’s solution - Augmented Reality Emergency Response System -

Multi-sensor based, indoor positioning technology to simulate a first responder emergency situation through a wearable SMART device..


Crowd Voting $5,000 Award

Variablelabs’s solution - The Future is Hidden in the Successes of the Past - A system which leverages interoperable standards to test educational curricula with a wide variety of stakeholders.


Honorable Mention

John Quarles's team’s solution - PerSim™: Realistic, Portable, Low Cost Simulation -

PerSim trains first responders using augmented reality simulation. It is more realistic, portable, and lower cost than current solutions.


The award winners were invited to participate in the PSCR Annual Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Meeting, June 12-14, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas. (https://www.nist.gov/ctl/pscr/outreach-events/stakeholder-meeting) Dereck Orr, PSCR Division Chief, announced the winners at the conference during his presentation, Monday, June 12. $50,000 in total prize money will be distributed among four finalists and the popular vote award winner.


We would like to take this opportunity to give a special thanks to all of the innovators who entered the challenge. While only those listed above are receiving the prizes and recognition, there were many other robust submissions that demonstrated notable potential. We are confident that all participants, no matter the final placing of their submission, will go on to find success in the rapidly expanding world of public safety technology and AR/VR.


Since February of this year, the whole challenge community through its varied roles and talents brought the NIST Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge to life. Whether it was through continued interest, support, voting, or actually crafting a solution, the community helped demonstrate the power of crowdsourcing to critical stakeholders. Each time the crowd rises to a challenge in this way, it helps secure a future rich in innovation and open access to ideas. Our deepest gratitude to all who took part. Whatever you do next, don’t let this be your last experience with a crowdsourcing competition!

[URGENT] LAST DAY for Voting for Best NIST Virtual Public Safety Submission!

May 19, 2017, 7:21 a.m. PDT by Maureen Murtha

TODAY is your last chance to have your vote count! Head over to the voting page now and choose your favorite submissions. Voting officially closes at 11:59 pm EDT 

One Week Left in the Public Voting Round

May 12, 2017, 5:05 p.m. PDT by Maureen Murtha

The last week for voting is upon us!  Friday, May 19th at 11:59 pm Eastern Time is the last opportunity to voice your opinion for the best submission to the NIST Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge. Don't hesitate - check out the amazing VR test environment concepts from this community (and be sure to tell your friends!)

Voting is Now Live for the NIST Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge

May 8, 2017, 12:50 p.m. PDT by Maureen Murtha

Let the Voting Begin

13 submissions have been chosen to move on to the voting round, which means the fate of this challenge is now in your hands! For the next 11 days, these submissions will duke it out for the crowd favorite.  The last votes need to be in by May 19, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. EDT and the final winners' announcement is expected to be released on June 12th.

Here's your chance to help choose that winner, so take a look and tell us what you think! 

T minus 24 hours to the submission deadline!

May 2, 2017, 1:46 p.m. PDT by Paul Musille

The submission deadline for the NIST Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge is in ~24 hours! 

Wednesday, May 3rd at 5pm EDT is your very last chance to submit your solution.  There's the potential that 6 different submissions could all be awarded $5,000 (or more)!  There are just about 10 early birds who have submitted already, so take advantage of the great odds and get your submssion finalized!

Don't forget that you can ask any questions about the challenge right here on the comments section of this update -- and the Forum is always a great resource for your questions and comments as well.

Good luck, and we can't wait to see what you've got! 

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