Wrapping up our Epic Game's MegaGrant - and What's Next

July 9, 2020

About 10 months ago, we received a MegaGrant award from Epic Games to expand our EMPACT(R) immersive training platform (built on the Unreal Engine, of course) to accelerate the creation and distribution of immersive training content.  We wanted to extend our platform’s content creation capability to include a no-code authoring tool that would allow our customers and partners to create interactive and engaging training content in a fully interactive, virtual environment.

Fast forward to today, and mission accomplished!

This concept began at the inception of HTX Labs in 2017, which at the time we referred to as “experience transfer”.  The basic idea (or at least if seemed basic at the time) was that if we can immerse a subject matter expert (SME) within a virtual environment that is aesthetically and contextually accurate, and offer that SME appropriate agency within that environment, then we can objectively capture, persist, and quantify their expertise.  Furthermore, we can codify that expertise into a lesson for others (students, trainees, novices) to experience, learn from, and ultimately be assessed against.  Hence the phrase “experience transfer”, or in other words, “transfer experience from those who have it to those who need it”.  What this results in is the rapid creation and distribution of meaningful, immersive training content, with the ability to objectively measure and compare expertise between individuals and across different cohorts.

The Epic MegaGrant award, which we received in late 2019, provided us an opportunity to accelerate the realization of this vision, which culminated in the creation of EMPACT Studio.  With Studio, a SME can choose a relevant virtual environment (which we call workspaces) and simply record themselves performing an activity.  The possibilities for this are incredibly broad.  Examples could include a Hazmat Engineer unloading highly concentrated H2O2 from a railcar, or a United States Air Force (USAF) instructor pilot performing an emergency procedure within a T-6 aircraft.  Regardless of the example, the results of the activity are captured and viewable by the SME for review and subsequent publication so that others may learn from their experience.  Traditional methods for creating this kind of fully immersive training have historically taken too long, and have not always been cost effective.  With Studio, our customers and partners can autonomously create and maintain immersive training content, and do so at a fraction of the cost and time investment.

In the short time that Studio has been available, it is already seeing substantial usage with our Department of Defense customers, in particular with USAF pilots and maintainers.  Instructor pilots are leveraging Studio to create training lessons specific to normal and emergency procedures, as well as to teach academic subjects specific to aircraft systems.  Senior aircraft maintainers are using Studio to capture a wide range of expertise, such as servicing the shock strut on the nose landing gear of an aircraft, and immersively teaching subjects such as the operation of the hydraulics and brake systems.  The common theme across all these examples is a focus on active learning, allowing the student to “learn by doing” in high-fidelity and fully interactive simulations, which studies have consistently shown leads to increased efficacy with the ability to shorten the training cycle time.

Moving forward, we are focusing on the creation of additional “Studio-ready” workspaces, along with tools that allow us (and others) to create these workspaces faster than ever before.  In addition, we are working on more advanced analytics capability that will help us gain even more insights specific to tracking performance, confidence, intent, learning trends over time, and ultimately our ability to measure and compare expertise.  Through all of this, we are grateful for our partnership with Epic Games, and thrilled to continue leveraging the Unreal Engine as a foundational component in our EMPACT immersive training platform.