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Collaborative Research: Immersive Virtual Reality with Haptic Feedback to Improve Safety Hazard Recognition, Assessment, and Decision-Making Among Construction Professionals: 1917763

Principal Investigator: Steven Ayer
CoPrincipal Investigator(s): Matthew Hallowell
Organization: Arizona State University

The construction industry accounts for hundreds of fatalities and hundreds of thousands of non-fatal injuries annually. The current modes of safety training do not effectively prepare practitioners to build safely. Research shows that safety learning occurs to a great extent through experiential learning – especially when individuals experience or witness an injury firsthand. While these experiences may be impactful for learning, it is impossible to wait for all practitioners to sustain (or witness) a serious injury in order to learn safe construction practices. Therefore, this work aims to explore the use of increasingly affordable virtual reality and haptic feedback technologies to provide realistic, yet safe, learning environments that aim to replicate the types of situations where injuries have historically occurred onsite. The research team will develop construction site training modules where participants may navigate a virtual job site with the aim of identifying safety hazards. Unlike prior virtual-reality-based safety training, when hazards go unnoticed, users will see, hear, and feel haptic feedback to simulate the ramifications of the missed hazard. The research team will collect data before, during, and after experimental treatments to determine the extent to which this mode of simulation supports safety learning among users. The team envisions this work providing evidence to guide both researchers and practitioners interested in using enhanced safety training simulations by studying how immersive virtual experiences can impact learners on a psychological level to make them care about safety in order to catalyze learning related to safe construction practices.

The objectives of this research are to (1) create a novel and fully immersive Virtual Reality safety education environment that provides haptic feedback to users when hazards go unrecognized and unaddressed; (2) measure the extent to which instruction in this environment enhances learning outcomes in construction safety compared to traditional media; and (3) measure and explain the psychological mediators of cyberlearning in this multimedia-rich environment. The following research questions guide this study: How can haptic technology be incorporated with Virtual Reality technology to create an immersive visualization experience for construction safety education; and to what extent does Virtual Reality with haptic activate emotional arousal, generate situational awareness, and foster meaningful safety learning through multimedia? The experiment defined in this work will enable testing of explanatory hypotheses that examine the mediating roles of emotional arousal and situational interest in the cyberlearning process. Qualitative findings regarding multimedia learning will be explained using open-ended constructive interviews with the research subjects. This work will provide a novel approach for developing and using immersive cyberlearning experiences aimed at improving construction safety training. This will advance the body of knowledge related to designing cyberlearning environments, and will also provide empirical evidence of the ways in which this mode of education impacts safety learning. In terms of broad impact, this work directly aims to teach behaviors that will reduce injuries and save lives in construction. Furthermore, this work aims to target this form of learning using a scalable and cost-effective medium, which may broaden access to this critical form of cyberlearning.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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