Haptic Helmet improve the safety and efficiency of firefighters

Imagine firefighters trying to navigate through an unfamiliar, burning building full of suffocating smoke and deafening noise. Firefighting is exceedingly dangerous, and the ability for first responders to maintain communications in hostile environments can literally mean life or death.

Developing technologies to improve the safety and efficiency of firefighters is challenging because smoke and noise affect human senses, and they impair computer vision algorithms that provide navigational guidance.

Ruling out audio and visual approaches, an interdisciplinary research team from Carnegie Mellon University is exploring haptic interfaces as alternative communication channels for firefighters. A haptic interface is a system that enables people to interact with a computer through their body movements.

Yang Cai, a senior systems scientist in Carnegie Mellon CyLab and the director of the Visual Intelligence Studio, heads the team that modified a firefighter’s helmet by adding haptic actuators, a control box with a radio module, and other devices to provide real-time information to firefighters. They named their prototype the “Haptic Helmet.”