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The StressVest delivers potentially painful electric shocks when cops or soldiers are hit. (Photo: StressVest)
The StressVest delivers potentially painful electric shocks when cops or soldiers are hit. (Photo: StressVest)

A Canadian firm has found a new way to apply an old technology so police and soldiers can help add an important factor to training exercises. Fear.

Earlier this month, a “live shooter” exercise was held at a military airport in Jacksonville, Fla. As the facility’s security staff hunted for two men who were playing the parts of gun-toting killers, all the participants wore unusual-looking vests, according to a story in the Florida Times-Union.

These are StressVests, made by the company of the same name. The system works like laser tag but with one important difference. Those participating in an exercise wear the vest, which can be equipped with front, back and side panels that are covered in material sensitive to lasers. Hats can be worn to help record head shots.

The way StressVest works is, trainees are armed with weapons modified to fire lasers or special laser-firing pistols. Each trainee wears a vest and a StressX training belt. When a vest is struck by a laser, it transmits a wireless signal to the belt, which can then be set to deliver either a vibration or an electric shock. The shock’s level of discomfort can also be adjusted.

By adding what the company calls a “pain penalty,” some negative reinforcement can be applied to police or soldiers who use faulty tactics or make poor decisions. A threat of physical discomfort can also help make trainees nervous, which is what live-shooter training has typically missed, according to the company.

As the war on terror ratchets up once again, the federal government is looking for new ways to prepare and equip those on the frontlines. The New York City Police Department, Air Force Space Command and Department of Homeland Security are some of the organizations that StressVest says use their products.

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