Media New Atlas reported that we have seen a number of devices designed to keep firefighters informed about the internal layout of burning buildings, including SmokeBot. But once inside, smoke can affect firefighters’ sight. A tactile helmet developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering Department can help.
The team, led by Yang Cai of Carnegie Mellon University, installed haptic actuators in standard firefighter helmets. When the actuators hum to the left, they look left or move to the left. When the actuators buzz to the right, they look to the right or move to the right. The team’s prototype uses an RF remote control for wireless control, which means that operators in the mobile control unit can use data from robots, drones or other measuring devices to guide firefighters.
Despite the announcement, the team’s design won the Haptic Interfaces for Public Safety Challenge last year, while also winning additional awards for producing a commercially promising prototype.
The helmet was adjusted in a virtual scene and tested in a series of actual firefighter training. For the latter, one researcher followed firefighters into a smoke-filled room, holding a thermal imaging camera in one hand and an RF remote control in the other. For training, helmets can be paired with virtual reality simulators and controlled by cable actuators.
Florian Albert, of the research team, said: “Half of the referees in the game are real firefighters and overall they like our approach because it is the most intuitive approach. If you are buzzing on the left side of your head, you’ll look to the left. It’s important to keep your instincts, because firefighting is really stressful. “
Researchers are now looking for ways to work with Pittsburgh firefighters to improve the design.