Ebola Training Project

Fighting an epidemic with contextual VR training


While medical professionals are trained in ebola treatment protocol, the physical impacts are very difficult to prepare for ahead of time, resulting in an increased rate of safety hazards and high turn-over due to the intense, unique aspects of working on-site in Africa.

The Ebola Training Project kicked off with dozens of engineers, designers, and medical professionals collaborating to create a VR training prototype. Users are dropped into an ebola treatment center in West Africa, where they practice safety awareness and hazard prevention in a high-stress environment.

The project was demoed at CES 2015, but ultimately did not receive enough funding to continue.

Timeline: 2014
Role: UX Design


We sat down with a group of medical professionals who shared their stories working in ebola treatment centers with us.


First-hand experiences were instrumental in recreating an accurate experience of working inside an ebola treatment unit.

The second path was a shortcut deeper into the sales funnel, directly linked from any participating lawyer's directory page. Inbound leads to attorneys were already coming in via the Find a Lawyer directory, so those pages were prime real estate to offer new fixed-fee legal services. Users in this flow would first find the attorney they wanted to work with, then select a service they offered at a pricepoint they were happy with, and complete the transaction in just a few clicks.

Environment profile

Recreating the working environment meant taking the floor plans of an actual field hospital built to combat ebola in Liberia and using them to build a 3D model of the space and structures.

Ambient sound effects and background noise from the treatment unit interior were also added to increase realism.


Physical constraints

Using the Samsung Gear VR, we created a sense of presence in the treatment center by having users wear full-body personal protective equipment (PPE), including a hood and gloves.

The in-headset experience blended together with the real-life discomfort of sweating, obscured vision, and restricted movement.


Instructional design

Our medical professional team helped us define how the simulation should work to reinforce medical training. As you progress through the simulation, health & safety hazards occur around you. Users must intervene and resolve the situation by demonstrating environmental awareness and communicating with virtual coworkers.

Watch a video overview of the project design and interactive elements:

  • Recreation of a real Ebola treatment unit to familiarize users with the workplace
  • Acclimating to diminished range of vision, sweating & fogged goggles from wearing PPE in a hot & humid climate
  • Limited mobility adaptation through time spent in protective suit
  • Learning to identify real-world safety/health hazards

Interaction in the simulation is a synthesis of the Gear VR headset and controller working together. Locomotion through the simulation uses both head and controller motions to move the user through 3D space.

Using the controller to drive locomotion is not ideal, as it causes nausea in some users. Due to the limitations of the VR hardware available at the time, we had to compromise.


Feedback from medical professionals familiar with the training protocol was very positive. The Ebola Training Project was featured in several news articles and blogs, including The Economist and GeekWire, and was shown at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show.

"They just did a phenomenal job of being able to illustrate that experience."

- Kate Hurley, clinical nurse manager and frontline ebola responder

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