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Alexo founder Drew Hancock in a virtual reality active shooter training experience developed with Pixvana. (Pixvana Image)

Companies looking for ways to educate their employees and keep them safe during an active shooter scenario have a new option: virtual reality.

Seattle-based VR solutions provider Pixvana, which specializes in corporate training experiences, has teamed with Alexo, another Seattle company, which provides tactical strategies to counter violence in the workplace. Their “Active Shooter Response” training experience, unveiled Wednesday, uses the immersive environment of VR to teach situational awareness, increase readiness, and quicken reaction and response, according to a news release.

It’s certainly a timely, if not depressing, reality in the United States in 2019 that such technology and training would be necessary. According to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, there have been 301 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year, including a number of high-profile incidents.

The VR video features Alexo founder Drew Hancock, a Seattle police officer and SWAT supervisor with more than 25 years of law enforcement experience.

“Virtual reality is extremely effective for teaching situational awareness and life-saving response for an active shooter scenario,” Hancock said. “Learning response strategies is important, but actually simulating and experiencing different scenarios can increase comprehension and response time, which could be all the difference. VR provides employees with valuable practice that cannot be replicated in typical training. It’s a game-changing technology that can have a real impact for people in moments when it counts the most.”

Advice for what to do during an active shooter situation at work is displayed in a VR experience. (Pixvana Image)

Hancock can be seen in a video introduction to the training here. The experience, which is available to businesses everywhere, can be augmented with VR content that fits their specific location or workplace layout. Protocols taught by Alexo are stressed throughout: “OODA” (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) and “ABC” (Avoid, Barricade, or Combat).

Interactive quizzes during and after the program ensure that employees grasp the curriculum.

“It’s unfortunate that this type of training is now necessary for every company, large and small, and for every employee near and far,” Hancock said. “However, VR makes it simple for even the most disparate, global organizations to deploy this high-impact training at scale, anytime and anywhere.”

(Pixvana Image)

The training has already been tried by Seattle-based Vulcan Inc., the company of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Vulcan Capital is a backer of Pixvana. Employee readiness for a live shooter event reportedly increased 32 percent after the VR training.

“Virtual reality is the future of workplace learning and development, including everyday safety,” said Rachel Lanham, COO at Pixvana. “This particular project has great meaning for us — everyone, including our own team, knows someone touched by this type of violence in some way. We hope that through this video, we can better prepare employees for violent situations, help them make quicker decisions, and potentially save lives.”

Pixvana’s previous training experiences include helping a luxury cruise line operator train its wait staff to remember table locations and teaming with a VR healthcare company to create immersive therapy for adolescent depression and anxiety.

The company launched in 2015 and has raised $20 million from investors including Vulcan Capital, Raine Ventures, Microsoft Ventures, Cisco Investments, Hearst Ventures, and Madrona Venture Group. It started by selling an end-to-end cloud-based VR storytelling software and later began developing VR experiences.

While augmented and virtual reality products have yet to catch on with mainstream consumers, the immersive technology is finding a place inside businesses who are using it to train employees, create marketing materials, visualize designs, help workers in the field, and more.

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