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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Police are using virtual reality as a less-expensive, more scalable way to train officers for the field.

Why it matters: Police in the U.S. are often undertrained — with disastrous results — in part because simulating scenarios with real people is expensive and time-consuming. Better VR technology can help change that.

What's happening: Axon, the maker of Tasers and other equipment for military and law enforcement, this week announced the launch of its first VR simulator for police training.

  • The Phoenix Police Department will be the first agency to incorporate Axon's VR training, which uses headsets from manufacturer HTC.

How it works: Axon's training modules make it possible for officers to practice encounters with the public, as well as rehearse weapon handling using Tasers and handguns that can be integrated into the virtual environment.

  • "The repetitions in this kind of training is really key," says Luke Larson, Axon's president. "More training, better training, can potentially add up to better outcomes."

Between the lines: Among the training options Axon's VR will include are opportunities for police to virtually experience both sides of a potential encounter — that of the officer, but also that of a community member.

  • A 2018 study from Stanford found that undergoing a virtual reality experience of being homeless led to greater empathy toward the unhoused — a data point Larson underlines.
  • "It's really important to create empathy in these training scenarios where you can use somebody else's perspective to be on the other side of police responding to a mental health situation," he says.

Context: The need for better training is all too clear, with several police officers in recent years mistaking their handguns for stun guns, resulting in tragic deaths, including the killing of Daunte Wright in Minnesota last month.

The bottom line: VR training isn't a substitute for safer, more just law enforcement policies, but at least it can help.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Investors pour millions into immersive, interactive art experiences

Photo Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images

How much would you pay for "a sleek, if pleasantly confusing, package of moods" or "a confusing tangle of disjointed installations" or even "the total erosion of meaning itself"? The answer, according to the current market-clearing price, seems to be about $35.

Why it matters: Investors are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into ticketed experiences — immersive, interactive museum-like spaces that don't have the d0-not-touch stuffiness of traditional museums.

Special Envoy for Haiti resigns over Biden deportations

Daniel Foote testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on May 26, 2016. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Special Envoy for Haiti on Wednesday resigned from his position, writing in his resignation letter obtained by PBS that he "will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees."

Why it matters: Ambassador Daniel Foote's resignation comes amid heightened anger over the treatment of Haitian migrants and asylum-seekers living in a temporary encampment in Del Rio, Texas — especially after images surfaced of Border Patrol agents whipping at the migrants from horseback.

First-time homebuyers shrink as prices spike

Data: National Association of Realtors; Chart: Axios Visuals

Home sales cooled as prices continued to heat up in August.

Driving the news: The share of first-time existing homebuyers (29%) last month was the smallest in two years, according to new data from the National Association of Realtors.