Ash at CIID

Ashwin Rajan's blog while at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

Posts Tagged ‘firefighting

Frontline Gloves – prototype presented for TUI exhibition at CIID

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This is the description of the Frontline gloves concept for firefighters as presented in the Tangible User Interface exhibition at CIID on 31st Jan 2009.

Frontline - Networked gloves for firefighters

Frontline - Networked gloves for firefighters

What is it?
A pair of networked gloves that allow two firefighters to communicate with each other by using hand gestures in a  firefighting situation.

Who is it for?
Firemen working in teams of two.

Why is it valuable?
Typically firemen need to operate as a tightly knit unit in a firefighting situation. Constant communication with one another and rapid assessment of the changing environment is key to their safety and effectiveness. The conditions can be extreme, with hazardous objects in their path, or with smoke so thick that visibility is too low to scope the size of the space they are operating in.

The Frontline Gloves enable firemen to quickly scope a zero-visibility space by means of direct visual feedback about obstacles and clearances. Further, the gloves allow them to send instructions to the teammate by means of simple hand gestures. This reduces the need for spoken communication, saving the firemen precious air that would be used up in talking, and overcomes challenges of radio such as cross-talk.

How does it work?

Each glove contains custom made electronics and sensors that allows communication between them via a wireless protocol. The glowing of ultra-bright LEDs built into the glove indicate specific instructions.

What were the key learnings?
–  Tangible User Interfaces have vast potential to address challenges faced by small teams of rescue workers, such as firemen, scuba divers etc. Screen-based interfaces demand a high degree of attention to operate, often challenging in the conditions these users find themselves in. A powerful answer is replacing screen driven-driven interaction with natural and gestural interaction.
– Designing solutions for niche user contexts like this one demands thorough user research and prototype iteration. This needs to be intrinsic to the design process adopted in the project. We interviewed researchers in the field of wearable computing for firefighting at the Fraunhofer Institute, Germany. This helped validate and refine our core assumptions about both the context of use and the design of the product a good deal.

Team Members
Ashwin Rajan and Kevin Cannon

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Frontline gloves – Tech Testing

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Critical technological components for demonstrating the value of the Frontline gloves concept were 1. the proximity sensor for sensing distances in smoky/darr/low visibility environments, and 2. basic communication between firefighters made possible by gesture recognition, using bend sensing technology. Putting together quick and dirty prototypes of these two components helped us test their viability early. Here are a couple of videos of the tests.

Testing Bend Sensors

Testing Proximity Sensors (Ultrasound)

Written by Ashwin Rajan

February 2, 2009 at 12:45 am

Frontline gloves – an attempt at miniaturization

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In our initials ideas, the Frontline gloves product concept consisted of two distinct parts connected by wires: 1. the upper hand area of the glove with proximity sensing and signalling capabilities and 2. the brain and software nestled into a pouch further up the arm (maybe integrated into the end of  the long arm of the glove). The latter would consist essentially of an Arduino, a Xbee shied for wireless communication with the paired glove, and a battery pack for powering the whole setup.

But before long we found ourselves exploring ideas around miniaturizing the product (encouraged by teacher Vinay.V) by combining both parts in one – within the box on the hand of the glove itself (photo above). This, we learnt, would be possible if we got rid of the Arduino board by detaching its chip, clock and a few other components and mounting them on to a much smaller custom made board.

The integrated single-piece set up of components.

The integrated single-piece set up of components.

The Tradeoff

Going further, we decided to go with using the complete Xbee shield setup as is, including its board, for this prototype. As a result, we traded off using two seperate components connected by wires for a larger but single component fully integrated into the hand of the glove, including the battery pack.

The increasing size of the housing for components as prototyping progressed.

The increasing size of the housing for components as prototyping progressed.

Testing how the box would fit and feel on the glove.

Testing how the box would fit and feel on the glove.

How the setup would fit together.

How the setup would fit together.