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NIH Awards Contract to Forterra Systems to Evaluate Gaming for Training Critical Hazmat Skills
[November 30, 2007]

NIH Awards Contract to Forterra Systems to Evaluate Gaming for Training Critical Hazmat Skills


(Wireless News Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)
Forterra Systems, a provider of private virtual worlds, announced that
the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a contract to the
company to study the use of commercial gaming technologies to produce a
distributed, multi-player, on-line virtual environment for training
individuals and teams in critical Hazmat skills.

Under the NIH contract, a hazardous material (Hazmat) emergency
response scenario will be designed using gaming technology to test the
basic principles of the study and to gather qualitative and
quantitative data to measure the efficacy of the technology.

Forterra has proposed a solution to NIH that leverages developments in
the commercial gaming industry and adapts these rapidly growing
technologies to produce an online virtual simulation in which
individuals and teams collaborate to increase their readiness to deal
with Hazmat emergencies. The NIH-sponsored study will include a
training task analysis to determine a proper instructional system
design. User tests will be conducted with target audiences and the
results will be analyzed to determine, among other outcomes, what the
impact is on cost effectiveness and distance learning.

"The current obstacles to effective training are often geographic or
cost driven, but there are also learning and retention limitations
associated with traditional training that involve video and slide
presentations as the mediums for this training. This experience is
devoid of realism and engagement for participants," said David Rolston,
Forterra's Chief Executive Officer. "As part of this NIH contract, we
will develop a distributed learning and instructional environment that
will put users in an engaging and realistic virtual world where they
are able to collaborate with other people rather than be inundated with
boring web pages and endless PowerPoint slides. A rich, interactive
environment based on game technology offers the most effective,
cost-efficient way to facilitate the rapid transfer of learning and the
development and sustainment of necessary skills."

In addition, the focus of the NIH study recognizes that new training
technologies are needed that allow remote access to large audiences and
highly qualified trainers. As a result, Forterra will integrate the
subject matter expertise of Rohde & Associates and the instructional
system design expertise of the Federation of American Scientists to
create a compelling on-line immersive training experience in which to
practice the interactions of Hazmat first responders, incident
commanders and site workers.

"We are excited to be involved with this important study sponsored by
NIH," said Dr. Henry Kelly, President of the Federation of American
Scientists. "People acquire new knowledge and complex skills from game
play. We as an organization are working on strategies that harness the
potential of emerging technologies to improve how people teach and
learn. Gaming technology, like the virtual world platform developed by
Forterra, provides a tool that can be leveraged by instructors and
subject matter experts to provide a rich environment for the rapid
transfer of learning."

Forterra's OLIVE (On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment) software
platform enables end-users and partners to support realistic,
collaborative, 3D Internet solutions. Applications developed using
OLIVE allow users to sit at their PCs with a network connection, log
on, and appear in an interactive, virtual environment represented as a
fully animated avatar (3D character controlled by the user). Through a
choice of simple keyboard, mouse or game controller interface, users
are able to navigate through realistic environments, access and deploy
equipment, drive/fly vehicles, don personal protective equipment, and
communicate with one another. As a scenario is executed, the results
are captured by a built in session replay system that support debrief
so users can learn from the simulation exercise.

"This virtual gaming technology from Forterra will bring the Hazmat
classroom to the student, reaching them at locations that are currently
unreachable through contemporary delivery systems, enhancing the
experience through interactive discussion and virtual task
accomplishment," said Mike Rohde, Principal of Rohde & Associates. "The
OLIVE platform possesses the ability to construct an entirely new
paradigm and regime for hazardous material training. Ultimately, the
system has the potential to become a central point for the accumulation
and archiving of instructional materials and case histories, becoming a
virtual nation-wide lessons-learned center for the all hazards' and
emergency response industry."

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