Augmented reality enhances radiation protection training

10 May 2023

A method using augmented reality (AR) to create accurate visual representations of ionising radiation, developed at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), has been licensed by Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Teletrix, a firm that creates advanced simulation tools to train radiation control workers.

The AR visualises ionising radiation (Image: ORNL)

At ORNL, the licensed methods were originally used to create the virtual interaction with physics-enhanced reality, or VIPER, application. Using simulated radiation data implemented in a gaming platform, the technology divides a physical space into cubes, each representing a volumetric value of ionising radiation by dose. A 3D interpolation of these values is then used to create an image of gradient contours that are overlaid on a real-world view through an AR headset. As a trainee moves through the space, navigating around the contours, the device calculates real-time, yet simulated, exposure based on the user's behaviour.

"We combined physics-based data with a gaming interface that provides a visual platform to make something invisible look and feel real - we took science and cinematography and brought them together," said ORNL's Michael Smith.

The technology began as an exploratory, one-year seed project funded under ORNL's Lab Directed Research and Development programme.

"When it comes to training with ionising radiation, augmented reality is a superior and safer solution," Smith said. "Our team was at the right place at the right time to develop this technology. There was a synergy of hardware and software maturity coupled with an idea that's been around a long time - the need to see ionising radiation."

Teletrix's simulators for radiological and gas detection training are widely used by utilities, emergency response organisations and government agencies.

"Our company is solely dedicated to improving radiation training - our tagline is 'Prepare Through Simulation' - and making that training more realistic," said Jason O'Connell, sales and business development manager for Teletrix. "We're always looking to innovate training, so we make a lot of new products."

One of Teletrix's products is VIZRAD, a virtual reality software system that simulates contamination on individuals and workspaces. VIZRAD trains a user to properly scan someone with a detector and provides objective feedback on technique.

"When I put the AR glasses on, it was obvious that ORNL's technology and Teletrix's tools were a great fit," O'Connell said. "Through the headset and the AR technology, we have the ability to track a person's exact location within a room and inject source information into the room. It really raises the bar on the precision of the training we can deliver.

"Having much more realistic readings on your instruments leads to better-prepared employees, better prepared trainees, fewer incidents - this technology will help make people in this industry safer."

"Just by having a general impression of the spatial relationship of your body in a given radiation environment, you can decrease your overall dose based on really fundamental behavioural changes," Smith added. "We can't see ionising radiation, so you just walk right through it. But once you have seen what the radiation in your working environment looks like, you can't unsee it. AR provides a means to train people to have a better visceral understanding of how ionising radiation behaves."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News