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Government Job Training: From the Mundane to 'The Matrix'

carlos castilla/

Training for a government job was once a mundane procession of lectures, note taking and No. 2 pencils. Then came personal computers and PowerPoints.

Now, more agencies are turning to virtual reality to give their training programs an added boost of authenticity, to help employees game plan on-the-job scenarios and to save money by doing more training from a distance.

The General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Institute recently posted solicitation documents seeking “a dynamic and interactive [virtual reality training] environment with novel artificial intelligence architecture, such as interactive challenges.”

The training program should be designed as a game with rewards for correct answers and be accessible remotely by computer, smartphone and tablet for up to 200 concurrent users, the document said.

This week the Homeland Security Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis posted a solicitation seeking a virtual world module for its training programs. The DHS program is aimed at augmenting its existing training. The tasks it describes mirror traditional training students might do in person or over the Internet, such as attending lectures and working on group projects except in a virtual 3D environment.

Perhaps the most ambitious virtual reality training program in government is being implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That program for non-clinicians who help CDC field teams manage safety, stress management and “psychological first aid” aims to so closely mimic the experience of visiting a disease-ravaged African village that “trainees may temporarily forget it’s simulated.”

The CDC program launched in 2009. The agency awarded a $625,000 contract for four new virtual reality training modules to the Georgia-based company Virtually Better in August.

(Image via carlos castilla/

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