Jack Smith can put mine rescuers in the midst of an underground emergency with lives at stake, all in the calmness of a university research lab.


Smith, a quantum chemist and a research associate for Marshall University in West Virginia, runs the school's simulation stage that immerses emergency responders in a detailed training program. But unlike most simulations, participants don't have to wire themselves with sensors and markers that prove cumbersome. They simply step onto the stage--created by New York-based motion-capture company Organic Motion--and their movements are recorded by 14 cameras and converted to a computer program.


"And we can produce what looks like

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