Hackaday Prize Entry: Augmented Reality For Firefighters

Augmented reality is all the rage right now, and it’s all because of Pokemon. Of course, this means the entire idea of augmented reality is now wrapped up in taking pictures of Pidgeys in their unnatural setting. There are more useful applications of augmented reality, as [vijayvictory]’s Hackaday Prize entry shows us. He’s built an augmented reality helmet for firefighters that will detect temperature, gasses, smoke and the user’s own vital signs, displaying the readings on a heads up display.

The core of the build is a Particle Photon, a WiFi-enabled microcontroller that also gives this helmet the ability to relay data back to a base station, ostensibly one that’s not on fire. To this, [vijayvictory] has added an accelerometer, gas sensor, and a beautiful OLED display mounted just behind a prism. This display overlays the relevant data to the firefighter without obstructing their field of vision.

Right now, this system is fairly basic, but [vijayvictory] has a few more tricks up his sleeve. By expanding this system to include a FLIR thermal imaging sensor, this augmented reality helmet will have the ability to see through smoke. By integrating this system into an existing network and adding a few cool WiFi tricks, this system will be able to located a downed firefighter using signal trilateralization. It’s a very cool device, and one that should be very useful, making it a great entry for The Hackaday Prize.

15 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Augmented Reality For Firefighters

    1. He’s got a good point.
      [vijayvictory] please ask almost any fire station for a spare helmet; they probably have one that is too small or a damaged one they can’t use anymore.

  1. It is a neat idea if it were like pokemon where it would maybe give location of mobile phones or IR signatures. Even back in the 90s there was the gigantic Cairns Iris, a FLIR system which attached to the fire helmet and swung down forward of the SCBA mask and face shield. The demo showed how much better it was at seeing through smoke for SAR than visual, easy to use too because it did only one thing, it allowed a firefighter to see in IR.

    As a former professional fire officer I would really rather have an Aliens style video and vitals reader on or near the engineers panel(so the pumper engineer can also watch for trouble) and maybe a big ruggedized walk around (human and fire apparatus) resource management tablet than wasting that info on a firefighter who has other things to worry about than minutia and already knows how to tell too hot by feel from training, also it would need to analyse and alert only when the data was in danger specs. That and an improved radio headset, that wouldn’t muffle the real world out so an officer can call them in their ear rather than on their radio remote mic if he sees a problem in the readings that would mostly just distract a firefighter pair inside.
    Firefighters already train to know evacuation conditions, gas concentration is info we have handheld sensors for to clear a room as safe for shirtsleeves, but in fire we wear a SCBA, heat you already know how to feel through the nomex hood. My boomer father’s generation even eschewed the hood when it arrived thinking that the neck burn was how to know it was evac time, he cursed our bubbled helmets as proof we were in too long in too hot gas.
    In a fire it is a real Keep I Simple Stupid environment, monitoring and displaying unimportant data while they are giving 50% to search and rescue and 50% to monitoring their own and partner’s safety leaves little time for numerical data. Maybe bar graphs for the most vital life saving quantifiable and senseable data(contact the NFPA or a big municipal training division for current theories) along with the FLIR display which actually makes that SAR 50% much easier. In any case the gadget has to be big and chunky shock, water, heat, flame, and firefighter abuse resistant and easily read or it becomes one more hard to use distraction and snag hazard while playing blind man’s bluff with peoples lives.

    If you look at firefighter gear, even the radio as is accessable in an interior with gloves on, they all do one thing. Flashlight has one big switch(or screw tight switch) radio has a TX button, the Cairns Iris got turned on outside and it flipped up or down over the face as needed. KISS, make it as easy to use and as hard to break as a hose nozzle or an axe.

    1. In the first sentence I missed the system being pokemon-like in also giving the location of exits and other firefighters, outside fire apparatus, and a breadcrumb line back out if you loose your hose line. Probably also needs a nav system that ties in to several beacons on local fire apparatus which can then interface with GPS (or not) to give a robust through-wall localization down to the meter for interior crews.

    2. Agree with only alerts that are of concern, be it combustible or toxic gases, overheating parts of the suit, low air supply or when a buddy sounds a distress beacon.
      On-demand FLIR could be just a matter of a nice, big, easy to reach button/knob.
      Also, since it’s castIR, it could be integrated into the breathing mask (or whatever the hell it’s actually called), providing no additional hinderance or danger to the firefighter. Would also make it more durable, not to mention more practical.
      One possibility for the headset is to do the same as with electronic earmuffs for gun operators. That way you could have completely covered both ears (better protection against burns/chemicals) and yet hear everything, possibly even add positive gain so you can hear better :D
      All and all, a completely different helmet that can integrate all of this without becoming a burden would be best.

      One advanced feature that comes to mind is inertial navigation for large and complex structures and/or combined with GPS for forest fires, but the sensors with required precision would probably make this way too expensive…

    3. Thanks for that wall of text. I was a firefighter too in my younger days and i fully agree with all the problems you pointed out. To me, a simple traffic-light indicator LED (green, yellow, red,…) to indicate danger levels would be way more pratical than feeding him raw data-samples he has to analyze and decide upon.
      And usually, fighting fire is a rough and dirty job. Making a ruggedized, high reliability system that does not interfere with all the other gear is a very tough challenge.
      This project here seems to be more a challenge of sensor and information processing and human interface and, at least for now, leaves out the field application layer.

    4. Please take [dave]’s suggestions seriously, [vijayvictory].
      I was in junior fire training for a few years and quit; being in a burning building is the most terrifying experience I have ever been through. Firefighters already have sensor overload going on.
      I think that you should focus on ‘sending data to the base station’. The augmented reality idea just isn’t practical for anyone actually inside a burning building IMO, though the command center could use it. Don’t forget that fire messes around with wireless signals.
      I feel the gas sensor isn’t needed; they assume the environment is contaminated and usually wear SCBA gear. Injury or death from inhalation is usually becase of SCBA failure or running out of air. At a HAZMAT scene a responder can use a handheld gas meter that has multiple sensors in it.

      I love the enthusiasm and fully encourage you to help first responders. If you haven’t already, please go to your local fire station or even ask the police for suggestions. They might have a spare helmet (damaged or too small) that you could use for your project. :)

      1. Gas sensors ARE needed, there are things which will damage the gear (corrosive) and then flammable/explosive gases, the ability to have something tell you that you are entering an explosive atmosphere would definitely save lives.
        But instead of a bazzilion of readings, it would just display (and say) a warning if the concentrations become dangerous.

  2. From what I can tell this system doesn’t use AR at all, it’s just a HUD system. AR overlays virtual objects on top of real objects, while this just shows some static-position floating number readouts.

    1. I agree, this isn’t augmented reality at all, it is a heads-up display. AR requires tracking of the user’s head or view point and positioning a virtual object in the real world.

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