VR against aggressive behaviour in the public sector

Aggressive behaviour against employees in the public sector, such as
police officers, tram conductors, and ambulance personnel, is an ongoing
concern worldwide, and in the Netherlands in particular. As an
illustration, the Amsterdam public transport company GVB reports about
500 incidents of aggression against employees (e.g., insulting,
threatening) per year. In general, such confrontations with aggressive
individuals have a very negative impact on employees’ work performance
and wellbeing. Therefore, there is a strong need to better prepare them
for such incidents, by means of dedicated training.

To train employees in their (verbal) aggression de-escalation skills,
the STRESS project aims to develop a simulation-based
training environment for public service workers. The project is a
collaboration between VU, NSCR, TNO, the company IC3D Media, the
Amsterdam public transport company GVB, and the Police Academy. The
training system is based on a 3D Virtual Reality (VR) environment that
is projected on a computer screen. During the training, users are placed
in a virtual scenario in a particular domain (e.g., selling tram
tickets), which involves a dialogue with a virtual character that
suddenly starts behaving aggressively (e.g., insulting the tram driver
because he is late). The users’ task is to de-escalate the aggressive
behaviour of the character by applying the appropriate communication

One of the prototype systems that have been developed is a training
environment for tram conductors. This prototype is currently being
evaluated in an experiment involving 30 tram conductors from the GVB.
Recently, this research has received quite some attention from the
media. Some examples can be found here:

Article in De Oplosser (Dutch)

Article in De Volkskrant (Dutch)

Article on Blendl (Dutch)