New AI-powered helmet could give firefighters ‘superpower’ to rescue victims faster

The device weighs less than 3 lbs.
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New helmet technology could help firefighters quickly map their surroundings.
New helmet technology could help firefighters quickly map their surroundings.

Heriot-Watt University 

Researchers from Edinburgh's National Robotarium have developed an AI helmet to help firefighters navigate a smoke-filled environment and rescue victims more quickly.

The team created the device using sensors, thermal cameras, and radar technologies, according to a press release published by Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland, last week.

"Firefighters are heroes. Everyone knows that. We want them to have this superhero ability: see through smoke, see through darkness and have this ability to find effective solutions for search and rescue," Chris Xiaoxuan Lu, Lecturer in Cyber-Physical Systems at the School of Informatics of the University of Edinburgh, told Euronews.

"It will definitely improve the safety for firefighters from multiple dimensions. We already talk about victim searching. We also talk about navigation together with all the sensor units," he added.

The tools are intended to make it easier for firefighters to move around in a smoke-filled area, map their surroundings, and rescue those in need.

"In the long run, we will try to investigate what is the most efficient communication manner between the frontline firefighters to the outside chief commanders, so that all the systems can be even more efficient."

Prototype tested

New AI-powered helmet could give firefighters ‘superpower’ to rescue victims faster
National Robotarium teamed-up with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to develop the AI-empowered smart helmet.

The research team developed and tested the prototype of this technology in collaboration with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

"Dr. @chris_x_lu, Lecturer in Cyber-Physical Systems @InfAtEd @EdinburghUni & lead researcher of a smart firefighting helmet which, with the help of @fire_scot, could give firefighters the superpower ability to see through smoke," the recently opened National Robotarium, a center for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence tweeted last Friday.

"Our equipment can at times be restrictive in terms of what we have to do for searching. Add in any heat, dark smoke - having a thermal image capacity helps us massively in terms of location of someone," said Watch Commander Glen Macaffer.

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"We can scan a room a lot better. We can take five to ten seconds compared to probably a couple of minutes when we wouldn't have that technology. So for us to have that would be a massive game changer."

The device, which the team claims weigh less than 3 lbs and is constructed of reasonably priced parts, is simple to attach to a regular firefighter's helmet.

Team's new ambition is to generate 3D maps

New AI-powered helmet could give firefighters ‘superpower’ to rescue victims faster
Field trials of the new tech.

"For now, we have all this proof of concept ready. What is next is to find the right industry collaborators who are willing to work with us to make this technology really go to the market and benefit the global firefighters at a wide kind of audience", said Lu.

“Our next ambition is to give the helmet the ability to generate 3D maps and an embedded display, which will provide the wearer with even more spatial awareness.”

The National Robotarium facility, which cost £22.4 million to build, formally opened its doors on September 28th, 2022, announcing this new research breakthrough.

The Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA), the Scottish Funding Council's SFC Saltire program, and the University of Edinburgh have all provided funding for the project, which was created by researchers at the National Robotarium, a leading center for robotics and artificial intelligence housed by Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh.

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