This paper presents the design and implementation of a distributed virtual reality (VR) platform that was developed to support the training of multiple users who must perform complex tasks in which situation assessment and critical thinking are the primary components of success. The system is fully immersive and multimodal, and users are represented as tracked, full-body figures. The system supports the manipulation of virtual objects, allowing users to act upon the environment in a natural manner. The underlying intelligent simulation component creates an interactive, responsive world in which the consequences of such actions are presented within a realistic, time-critical scenario. The focus of this work has been on the training of medical emergency-response personnel. BioSimMER, an application of the system to training first responders to an act of bio-terrorism, has been implemented and is presented throughout the paper as a concrete example of how the underlying platform architecture supports complex training tasks. Finally, a preliminary field study was performed at the Texas Engineering Extension Service Fire Protection Training Division. The study focused on individual, rather than team, interaction with the system and was designed to gauge user acceptance of VR as a training tool. The results of this study are presented.

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