BreakAway named by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi to develop country's first virtual training space for health care professionals

BALTIMORE, MD (6/8/05) --- BreakAway Ltd, the country's foremost developer of modeling and simulation training tools, has been selected by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi to develop the first-ever, immersive virtual learning space to teach health care professionals.

Funded by a $4.3 million federal grant from the Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research, the new "Virtual Learning Space (VLS)," called Pulse!! will provide a lifelike, interactive, virtual environment in which civilian and military heath care professionals can practice clinical skills in order to better respond to catastrophic incidents, such as bioterrorism.

"The core design of Pulse!! will provide a totally immersive, 3-D experience that focuses on discrete actions professionals must master," explains BreakAway founder and CEO Doug Whatley. "The user will experience critical thinking, peer and patient interaction, and emotional observation, all simultaneously, in a random - not scripted - virtual environment."

According to Whatley, simulated experiences such as Pulse!! offer distinct advantages over training in actual environments. "Virtual simulation training provides more flexibility, greater efficiency, and improved ability to assess progress, as well as a safe space for the learner to fail," notes Whatley. "Virtual patients - powered by artificial intelligence engines in a virtual healthcare environment - react as live patients would, and students see the immediate consequences of their actions."

Pulse!! will be housed at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi's campus in the Office for Special Projects. In conjunction with TAMU-CC, BreakAway will establish a studio on campus comprised of 3-D artists, programmers, and project managers to assist in training and mentoring the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi development team.

The first phase of Pulse!! is scheduled to be completed by September 2006. Future phases will enable rapid scenario production for mirroring real-time in a virtual environment.

"We are going to build a learning environment that fosters and optimizes the emergence of skilled, knowledgeable healthcare professionals. Our platform will strengthen the critical thinking and skills today's health professions require," notes Dr. Claudia Johnston, Associate Vice President for Special Projects at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

"Pulse!! is part of a whole vision for virtual learning for nursing and other health professions both military and civilian," Dr. Johnston adds. "It's not designed to fully replace the pre-licensure clinical experience, but to help students practice skills and to apply conceptual knowledge. It provides one solution for the nursing shortage that integrates new ideas and technologies rather than a 'do more with less' attitude."

Congressional support for Pulse!! was provided by Representative Solomon Ortiz (D-TX, 27th), whose office helped to initiate funding for Pulse!!. "This funding was a high priority for me in the Defense Bill," notes Congressman Ortiz. "Training healthcare professionals virtually can better prepare them for the inner space of human medicine."

BreakAway has developed an international reputation for its ground-breaking work in consumer entertainment and serious game applications for clients such as Microsoft, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and the U.S. Army. BreakAway recently was named to Deloitte's prestigious Technology Fast 50 Program after experiencing 506% growth over the past five years.

BreakAway currently has more than 100 employees who work out of the company's headquarters in Hunt Valley, Maryland and its Austin, Texas-based studio.



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