The Qwake C-Thru helmet would give firefighters life saving superpowers through AR technology.
Thermal imaging cameras are helpful tools for firefighters when dealing with smoke-filled buildings. But, they must first stop, take a picture to use them, and then they have to evaluate the data they see. Those seconds are very important for firefighters and for people who might be inside of a burning structure, as it can either mean the difference between life and death.
Qwake Technologies aims to give back to those important seconds by delivering life saving information to firefighters through an AR Smoke Diving helmet called C-Thru, which combines thermal imaging with toxicity sensors and edge detection.
According to Mark Dejnozka of the Saratoga Springs, NY Fire Department, an AR helmet could help firefighters save their lives by giving them the advantage in dealing with a fast-moving fire. “One second makes a huge difference,” said Dejnozka. “The technology behind the Qwake AR helmet would literally give back those extremely important seconds to get the advantage on a blazing fire.”
C-THRU is a system that integrates various technologies into a helmet, such as an AR display, an optical thermal camera, a target acquisition system, and a cloud computing system. These components allow the helmet to provide firefighters with real-time navigation in line-of-sight, allowing them to move faster through a building.
When it comes to using thermal imaging cameras, Dejnozka noted that they can get heavy, which can prevent them from using their hands properly. With Qwake’s C-Thru helmet, he said that he would no longer have to carry around the heavy equipment.
“The cameras are 2-3 pounds, they get heavy. When using it, you lose the ability to use that hand. The Qwake helmet would reduce much of that load and allow me to have both of my hands free to move around, which would increase the safety of the firefighter, and it would improve our chances of stopping the fire.”
Using AR technology beyond the world of mobile games and social media face filters isn’t new. The company Raythink has created an AR heads up display (HUD) for your vehicle that would deliver various driving-related information onto the windshield, such as speed, directions, and assistance features, in real-time to help with navigation. This eliminates the need for drivers to look down or turn their heads.
This same approach would deliver similar navigational information to help fire fighters. For example, when it comes to navigating through a room, firefighters typically rely on their hands to do so. The C-THRU system, which utilizes the AR display, eliminates this by creating bright edges on walls, doors, and other objects. It does this by gathering data in real time through sensors built into the helmet and sending it to the handheld device of the Smoke Diver Leader.
The data collected by the C-THRU system is then sent back to the helmet via a 3D wireframe, which is projected through the front visor.
Regardless of the visibility setting, the 3D wireframe can help the firefighters identify their surroundings. The C-THRU utilizes a device that measures about the size of a deck card and is powered by Nvidia’s mobile processors.
Besides the Smoke Diver helmet, the C-TRU is also a modular platform that may be used for other devices such as drones, hand held devices and robotics.
Dejnozka talks about one situation where he tried to close a door to prevent a fire from spreading, he got disoriented and lost. He noted that if he had the ability to see where the doors and walls were through digital content, that would prevent that disorientation. As you would guess, getting lost in a burning structure is an incredibly dangerous situation for a firefighter.
Communication within the team is vital during fires. According to Dejnozka, while using a breathing mask, he often has to speak slowly as the audio gets muffled stating that you sometimes need to communicate one word at a time, demonstrating “NEED. MORE. WATER,” because if you say it fast, the message gets broken up.
The Qwake helmet, on the other hand, can improve communication between members of the team through “Selective Active Noise” cancellation. What this does is cancel the sounds of the user’s breathing in the helmet as oxygen is pumped in. This feature can also enhance the voices of victims and other noises in the room, such as a breaking floor and other structural sounds.
“This helmet would give me the ability to help people better, as well as save their property and memories.”