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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

NIST Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge

Design a physical measurement environment that uses immersive virtual reality tools for testing new first responder technologies.

Department of Commerce - National Institute of Standards and Technology

Total Cash Prizes Offered: $50,000
Type of Challenge: Ideas
Submission Start: 03/29/2017 12:00 PM ET
Submission End: 05/03/2017 05:00 PM ET



New technologies, including wearable interfaces like heads up displays, smart watches, and biological monitors have the potential to increase first responder safety while enhancing performance. However, variability in current testing procedures/environments pose a challenge in assessing the effectiveness of emerging technologies. To assess the potential of new technologies and compare technologies against each other, NIST is crowdsourcing ideas that use virtual/immersive environments in conjunction with physical spaces to create accurate first responder scenarios and a repeatable test environment for technology evaluation.

  • Your job is to propose a physical environment, along with immersive virtual reality tools, to facilitate the future of first response in a controlled and repeatable way.
  • Possible First Responder Scenarios, Metrics/ Data to be collected, and Technologies to be tested are included on the Resources Tab, provided by NIST.
  • This is an ideation prize only and does not require the development of virtual or physical spaces, only proposals.


  • Open to submissions: March 28, 2017
  • Submission deadline: May 3, 2017 at 5 p.m. ET
  • Judging: May 4 to June 11, 2017
  • Crowd Voting: May 8 to May 19, 2017
  • Winners Announced: June 12, 2017


NIST will award a grand total of up to $50,000 in overall cash prizes:

  • The guaranteed minimum prize amount, per finalist, will be $5,000
  • Up to 5 competitors could share a $45,000 prize purse, as awarded by the judges
  • A popular choice award of $5,000, determined by crowd voting, will be given following the submission deadline.

To receive details about the winners and the challenge, go to:



1st Place

FirstSimVR: Measuring Future Tools Using Today's VR, created by NextGen Interactions team lead by Jason Jerald, Nat Hoffmeier, Cullen Morris.

2nd Place

Reconfigurable Vehicle Training System, created by Design Interactive team lead by Zach Huber, Matthew Johnston, Brent Winslow.



  • NIST will award a grand total of up to $50,000 in overall cash prizes:
  • The guaranteed minimum prize amount, per finalist, will be $5,000
  • Up to 5 competitors could share a $45,000 prize purse, as awarded by the judges
  • A popular choice award of $5,000, determined by crowd voting, will be given following the submission deadline


Official Rules

Following are the official rules and terms of participation. This document on serves as the official record for the NIST Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge. Official entry is through a third-party site, HeroX,, and Participants/Innovators must register there to compete in the challenge and submit an entry. No entries will be accepted through

1.  In the event of any discrepancy or inconsistency between the terms and conditions of the official rules and disclosures or other statements contained in any Competition materials, including but not limited to the Competition submission form, Competition website and use terms, HeroX terms of participation, advertising (including but not limited to television, print, radio or online ads), the terms and conditions of the NIST Official Rules on shall control.

2. America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010: All challenge and prize competitions shall be performed in accordance with the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, Pub. Law 111-358, title I, § 105(a), Jan. 4, 2011, as amended, codified at 15 U.S.C. § 3719 (hereinafter “America COMPETES Act”).

3.  Eligibility: To be eligible for the cash prizes, individuals must be age 18 at the time of entry and U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States, or its territories. In the case of a private entity, the business shall be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States or its territories. a. Participants may not be a Federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of their employment. Non-NIST Federal employees acting in their personal capacities should consult with their respective agency ethics officials to determine whether their participation in this Competition is permissible. b. Participants, including individuals and private entities, must not have been convicted of a felony criminal violation under any Federal law within the preceding 24 months and must not have any unpaid Federal tax liability that has been assessed, for which all judicial and administrative remedies have been exhausted or have lapsed, and that is not being paid in a timely manner pursuant to an agreement with the authority responsible for collecting the tax liability. c. Participants must not be suspended, debarred, or otherwise excluded from doing business with the Federal Government. d. Multiple individuals and/or legal entities may collaborate as a group to submit a single entry and a single individual from the group must be designated as an official representative for each entry. That designated individual will be responsible for meeting all entry and evaluation requirements.

4. Submissions: By participating in this Challenge, Innovator may submit to Challenge Sponsor submission materials ("Submission”), as outlined in the Challenge Official Rules on and Challenge Guidelines specific to this Challenge on By submitting a Submission, Innovator thereby agrees to provide reasonable assistance and additional information concerning the Submission to Challenge Sponsor, if requested.

5. Warranties: By submitting an Entry, the Participant represents and warrants that all information submitted is true and complete to the best of the Participant’s knowledge, that the Participant has the right and authority to submit the Entry on the Participant’s own behalf or on behalf of the persons and entities that the Participant specifies within the Entry, and that the Entry (both the information and materials submitted in the Entry and the underlying technology/method/idea/treatment protocol/solution described in the Entry): a. Is the Participant’s own original work, or is submitted by permission with full and proper credit given within the Entry; b. Does not contain trade secrets (the Participant’s or anyone else’s); c. Does not knowingly violate or infringe upon the patent rights, industrial design rights, copyrights, trademarks, rights of privacy, publicity or other intellectual property or other rights of any person or entity; d. Does not contain malicious code, such as viruses, malware, timebombs, cancelbots, worms, Trojan horses or other potentially harmful programs or other material or information; e. Does not and will not violate any applicable law, statute, ordinance, rule or regulation, including, without limitation, United States export laws and regulations, including but not limited to, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations and the Department of Commerce Export Regulations; and f. Does not trigger any reporting or royalty or other obligation to any third party.

6. Intellectual Property: Any applicable intellectual property rights to an Entry will remain with the Participant.  By participating in the prize challenge, the Participant is not granting any rights in any patents, pending patent applications, or copyrights related to the technology described in the Entry.  However, by submitting an Entry, the Participant is granting NIST, NASA, and any parties acting on their behalf certain limited rights as set forth herein. a. By submitting an Entry, the Participant grants to NIST, NASA, and any parties acting on their behalf the right to review the Entry, to describe the 6. Entry in any materials created in connection with this competition, and to screen and evaluate the Entry. NIST and NASA, and any parties acting on their behalf will also have the right to publicize Participant’s name and, as applicable, the names of Participant’s team members and/or Organization which participated in submitting the Entry following the conclusion of the Competition. b. As part of its submission, the Participant must provide written consent granting NIST, NASA, and any parties acting on their behalf, a royalty-free, non-exclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to display publicly and use for promotional purposes the Participant’s entry (“demonstration license”). This demonstration license includes posting or linking to the Participant’s entry on NIST and NASA’s websites, including the Competition Website, and partner websites, and inclusion of the Participant’s Entry in any other media, worldwide.

7. Trade Secret Information: By making a submission to this prize competition, the Participant agrees that no part of its submission includes any Trade Secret information, ideas or products. All submissions to this prize competition are deemed non-proprietary. Since NIST does not wish to receive or hold any submitted materials “in confidence” it is agreed that, with respect to the Participant’s Entry, no confidential or fiduciary relationship or obligation of secrecy is established between NIST, NASA, or any parties acting on their behalf and the Participant, the Participant’s team, or the company or institution the Participant represents when submitting an Entry, or any other person or entity associated with any part of the Participant’s Entry.

8. Liability: Participants shall agree to assume any and all risks and waive claims against the Federal Government and its related entities, except in the case of willful misconduct, for any injury, death, damage, or loss of property, revenue, or profits, whether direct, indirect, or consequential, arising from participation in this prize competition, whether the injury, death, damage, or loss arises through negligence or otherwise.

9. Insurance: Participants are not required to obtain liability insurance for this Competition.

10. Indemnification: Participants shall agree to indemnify the Federal Government against third party claims for damages arising from or related to Challenge activities.

11. Changes and Cancellation: Challenge Sponsor has the right to make updates and/or make any changes at any time during the Challenge. Innovators are responsible for regularly reviewing the official rules on and updates on the HeroX site to ensure they are meeting all rules and requirements of the Challenge. Challenge Sponsor has the right to cancel the Challenge at any time, without warning or explanation, and to subsequently remove the Prize completely.

12. Payments: The prize competition winners will be paid prizes directly from NIST. Prior to payment, winners will be required to verify eligibility. The verification process with the agency includes providing the full legal name, tax identification number or social security number, routing number and banking account to which the prize money can be deposited directly.

13. Existing Laws: The Federal Government shall not, by virtue of conducting this prize competition, be responsible for compliance by Participants in the prize competition with Federal law, including licensing, export control, and nonproliferation laws, and related regulations. Participation is subject to all U.S. federal, state and local laws and regulations. Participants are responsible for checking applicable laws and regulations in their jurisdiction(s) before participating in the prize competition to ensure that their participation is legal.  Individuals entering on behalf of or representing a company, institution or other legal entity are responsible for confirming that their entry does not violate any policies of that company, institution or legal entity.

14.  Registration and Submissions: Submissions must be made online (only), via upload to the website, on or before 5pm ET on May 3rd, 2017. All uploads must be in PDF format. No late submissions will be accepted.

15.  Selection of Winners: Based on the winning criteria, prizes will be awarded per the Judging Criteria section above. In the case of a tie, the winner(s) will be selected based on the highest votes from the judges.

16.  Judging: The final determination of the winners will be made at the sole discretion of NIST. Scores and feedback from NIST will not be shared.

17. Popular Choice Award Voting: The $5,000 popular choice award will be awarded based on number of votes received during the voting period. A competitor is eligible to win both a judges' award and the popular choice award. a. All votes are subject to review. Any competitor using unfair methods to solicit votes will be automatically disqualified from the challenge b. Entries that are eligible for the Voting stage will become viewable to the public. Make sure that if your entry moves on to the Voting stage, that you're OK with anyone seeing it! Depending on the number of entries received, either all or a selected shortlist will move on to the Voting stage.

18. Privacy Advisory: The website is hosted by a private entity and is not a service of NIST. The solicitation and collection of your personal or individually identifiable information is subject to the host’s privacy and security policies and will not be shared with NIST unless you win the Challenge. Challenge winners’ personally identifiable information must be made available to NIST in order to collect an award.

Judging Criteria

Reality - 20%

How well does the design emulate a real first responder experience?

Availability - 15%

Is the technology proposed currently available?

Versatility (1) - 15%

Ability to accommodate multiple and variety of scenes/scenarios. (See the resources tab for examples of some first responder scenes NIST is interested in accommodating.)

Versatility (2) - 10%

How well does the design enable the collection of measurements and data from the first responder? (See the resources tab for examples of some data and metrics NIST is interested in collecting.)

Replicability - 10%

How replicable is your design for future labs to recreate?

Repeatability - 10%

How long does it take the operator to reset the scene in between simulations?

Interoperability - 10%

How many different technologies and/or interfaces can your design accommodate for testing? (See the resources tab for examples of technologies NIST is interested in testing.)

Safety - 5%

How safe is your design for the end-users?

Above and Beyond - 5%

How does your submission go above and beyond the listed criteria?

Note: * Lowest-cost competitors will not automatically achieve higher ranking.

How To Enter


To register for the challenge competition:

  • Go to
  • Register with a username and password.
  • Official entries are accepted only through the HeroX platform on or before 5 PM ET, May 3, 2017.

How do I win?

To be eligible for an award, your design proposal must, at minimum:

  • Satisfy the Judging Criteria requirements
  • Thoughtfully address the Submission Form questions
  • Be scored higher than your competitors!