Communication system and team situation awareness in a multiplayer real-time learning environment: application to a virtual operating room


Digital multi-player learning games are believed to represent an important step forward in risk management training, especially related to human factors, where they are trusted to improve the performance of a team of learners in reducing serious adverse events, near-misses and crashes in complex socio-technical systems. Team situation awareness is one of the critical factors that can lead the team to consider the situation with an erroneous mental representation. Then, inadequate decisions are likely to be made regarding the actual situation. This paper describes an innovative communication system designed to be used in digital learning games. The system aims at enabling the learners to share information and build a common representation of the situation to help them take appropriate actions, anticipate failures, identify, reduce or correct errors. This innovative system is neither based on voice-chat nor branching dialogues, but on the idea that pieces of information can be manipulated as tangible objects in a virtual environment. To that end, it provides a handful of graphic interactions allowing users to collect, memorize, exchange, listen and broadcast information, ask and answer questions, debate and vote. The communication system was experimented on a healthcare training context with students and their teacher. The training scenario is set in a virtual operating room and features latent critical events (wrong-patient or wrong-side surgery). Teams have to manage such a critical situation, detect anomalies hidden in the environment and share them to make the most suitable decision. Analyzing the results demonstrated the efficacy of the communication system as per the ability for the players to actually exchange information, build a common representation of the situation and make collaborative decisions accordingly. The communication system was considered user-friendly by the users and successfully exposed lifelike behaviors such as debate, conflict or irritation. More importantly, every matter or implicit disagreement was raised while playing the game and led to an argued discussion, although eventually the right decision was not always taken by the team. So, improving the gameplay should help theplayers to manage a conflict and to make them agree on the most suitable decision.

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The steering committee of 3DVOR is composed of Pr. Pierre Lagarrigue, M.D. Ph.D. Vincent Lubrano, M.D. Ph.D. Vincent Minville and Catherine Pons-Lelardeux. The following authors are also grateful to contributors to the project 3D operating room: Thomas Rodsphon, Cyrielle Guimbal, Michel Galaup and Jules de Guglielmi. The experiment described in Sect. 6.3 has been conducted under the supervision of Christiane Paban (teacher) and two students of the anesthetist nurse school of Toulouse: Hoang and Amelie. These works are part of a global national innovative IT program whose partners are KTM Advance company, Novamotion company, Serious Game Research Network and University Hospital of Toulouse (France). This R&D project is supported by French National Funding : Bpifrance Financement.

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Pons Lelardeux, C., Panzoli, D., Lubrano, V. et al. Communication system and team situation awareness in a multiplayer real-time learning environment: application to a virtual operating room. Vis Comput 33, 489–515 (2017).

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  • Digital collaborative environment
  • Team situation awareness
  • Communication
  • Information
  • Decision making
  • Learning game
  • Virtual environment
  • Socio-technical system
  • Non technical skills