It's hard to imagine that a pair of goggles could train the brain to more quickly recognize and respond to threats, but that's exactly what ARE Innovations' training goggles do.
Developed by optometrist Dr. Allen DuBro and decorated military veteran Jim Bolen who's spent 20 years training athletes, the device began as a way to improve ball players' reaction time. In fact, the "ARE" in ARE Innovations stands for Athletic Response Enhancer. But that was just the beginning.
DuBro approached Bolen about helping him develop the product he'd envisioned, and one of the first guinea pigs was Bolen's son Brock, a professional football player on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Seeing how the training system worked to improve response and hand-eye coordination for athletes, Bolen realized the goggles could be adapted for range training applications.
"With the athletic version, when you're wearing the goggles you can see all the time and the coach can stop your vision and then open it back up. That's for when the ball is thrown toward you," explains Bolen. "With the police version, we do the opposite. The cop on the range can't see anything. Then the range officer can allow as many seconds as he wants for the officer to view the targets in front of him."
As an officer improves, the law enforcement trainer can shorten visualization time for even better performance.
In testing at the Franklin (Ohio) Police Department, officers wearing the goggles were presented with three targets, only one of which was a possible threat. Once the trainer cued the goggles to allow the officers to see, each officer had to scan the targets, find the threat, and put two rounds in the threat. But sometimes what seemed to be a threat was just a cell phone or similarly innocuous item in the target's hand. The threat is changed after each firing.
Officers went from needing 4.5 seconds at the outset to only one second to recognize and respond to the threat. This means an officer trained in this way can effectively handle a situation with seconds to spare, which provides a significant advantage.
In addition to giving an officer valuable seconds to react and end a threat, this type of training can help in litigation.
"If there's ever a bad shooting, if you go to court, they'll ask if you fire every time in training," says Bolen. "If you train with our product you can say, 'I don't fire my weapon every time on the range.' It's not like it's automatic that you shoot."
Another benefit of the goggles is cost. Individually, each pair costs $695, but if you buy more than one they're $595 each. They run on two AAA batteries, which last for 6,000 openings and closings. The device also turns itself off to save battery power and prolong its life.
Because ARE Innoviations' training goggles are self-contained, they can be used at any live fire range with any type of target or weapon. The only additional part of the system is a remote control that a law enforcement trainer can use to simultaneously operate up to 100 pairs of ARE goggles up to 60 feet away. The goggles feature molded ABF plastic, a shatter-resistant lens, water-resistant electronics, and a heavy 1.5-inch sports strap. They can be used over glasses, including prescription lenses.
Additional uses include SWAT training to simulate tactical situations and suspect recognition. A trainer can "open" an officer's goggles for a certain number of seconds to view a "suspect" and see if the officer can remember all of the person's identifying information in that amount of time to improve recall. But the goggles' primary function is tested on the range.
"The whole idea is to have someone react," says Bolen. "I've been shot myself, so I understand about reaction time. What is an officer's life worth?"
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Visit the ARE Innovations booth at POLICE-TREXPO East.