Sensory helmet could mean firefighters are not left in the dark

Mar 29, 2013

A specially-adapted 'tactile helmet', developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield, could provide fire-fighters operating in challenging conditions with vital clues about their surroundings.

The helmet is fitted with a number of ultrasound sensors that are used to detect the distances between the helmet and nearby walls or other obstacles. These signals are transmitted to vibration pads that are attached to the inside of the helmet, touching the wearer's forehead. Rescue workers, such as fire-fighters, who might be working in dark conditions or in buildings filled with smoke, will be able to use the signals to find walls and other obstacles that could help guide them through unfamiliar environments.

It is anticipated that a lightweight version of the technology could also be useful to people with visual impairments, acting as an additional 'sense' to guide users or to help them avoid hazards.

Invented by a team of researchers at the Sheffield Centre for Robotics (SCentRo), the helmet was inspired by research into tactile sensing in rodents, whose give early warning of potential hazards.

Professor Tony Prescott of the University of Sheffield and director of SCentRo, said: "When a is responding to an he will be using his eyes and ears to make sense of his environment, trying to make out objects in a smoke filled room, for example, or straining to hear sounds from people who might need rescuing. We found that in these circumstances it was difficult to process additional information through these senses. Using the , however, we were able to deliver additional information effectively."

The team also found that the helmet was the ideal place to locate the vibrating pads because, although the fingertips might seem a more obvious choice, delivered to the wearer's forehead enabled them to respond more rapidly to the signals, and would also leave their hands free for other tasks.

The prototype helmet was developed using a Rosenbauer helmet donated by Northfire Ltd and was produced following a two-year research project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service have also assisted, providing advice during the development period as well as access to their training facility. The next step is to find a commercial partner interested in further developing the helmet.

The helmet will be on show at this year's Gadget Show Live, to be held at the NEC in Birmingham from 3-7 April 2013. For more information go to: http://www.gadgetshowlive.net/.

Explore further: Lifting the brakes on fuel efficiency

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Australia: Helmets off to legislation

Dec 05, 2011

Cycling levels in Sydney could more than double if laws forcing cyclists to wear helmets were repealed, according to new research published today in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia.

A whisker-inspired approach to tactile sensing

Aug 30, 2012

Inspired by the twitching whiskers of common rats and Etruscan shrews, European researchers have developed rodent-like robots and an innovative tactile sensor system that could be used to help find people ...

Is it time for all skiers to wear helmets?

Feb 10, 2011

In a bid to decrease brain injuries from skiing and snowboarding accidents, experts in an editorial published in the British Medical Journal today are calling for more public awareness to promote ski helmets.

Recommended for you

Lifting the brakes on fuel efficiency

13 hours ago

The work of a research leader at Michigan Technological University is attracting attention from Michigan's Governor as well as automotive companies around the world. Xiaodi "Scott" Huang of Michigan Tech's ...

Large streams of data warn cars, banks and oil drillers

Apr 16, 2014

Better warning systems that alert motorists to a collision, make banks aware of the risk of losses on bad customers, and tell oil companies about potential problems with new drilling. This is the aim of AMIDST, the EU project ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...