In a typical mission, firefighters need to provide a reliable estimation of the layout of their surroundings within a short period of time and explore unknown, dangerous environments under poor visibility conditions. Currently, navigation under such conditions, even with the appropriate equipment, is difficult.
The goal of this project is to provide an infrastructure that allows firefighters to place reference points (landmarks) in space to interact with and adjust them in real time. Interaction with the landmarks should be easy and includes storing, modifying and reading information contained in them, bearing in mind the limited time constraints, the unfriendly environment as well as other limitations that may arise from the nature of the firemen’s equipment and uniform (thick gloves, limited field of view, heavy gear). The ability to have the infrastructure dynamically adjust to the changing goals of a mission is also a key requirement, as they usually navigate using diverse and dynamic sets of reference points . The final infrastructure proposed will be assessed by firefighters in terms of relevance and usefulness in practice.
With the experience from the WearIT@Work and OpenInterface projects to draw from, the things group is looking to explore human-machine interaction and develop wearable technology that allows multimodal interaction in the context of fire brigade missions. At the moment RFIDs and sensors are the technology explored for constructing the interactive landmarks and the accompanying wearable technology.
Building on Practices
During reconnaissance missions firefighters make extensive use of resources in their environment to mark the explored space for better subsequent navigation.
Collaboration and the use of available resources are key in forming a mental model of the unknown space. Bringing technology to reconnaissance missions should aim to enhance the existing practice and create more possibilities for the firefighters to interact with their environment rather than introducing an entirely new procedure.
Landmarke looks to further study and make use of the cognition skills that firefighters use during missions, in order to build a navigation system that can change dynamically to fit a typical situation as well as critical, unforeseen scenarios.
The life-threatening nature of fire brigade missions demands that the deliverables are reliable, useful and easy to use by the actual firefighters. Landmarke adopts a broad user study approach in establishing what each of the aforementioned requirements actually is.
Landmarke plans to use both empathic and participatory design to bring the designers in the firefighter’s environment and to equally include the firefighters in the design process . Conclusions from empathic and ethnographic user studies as well as participatory design workshops will lay the groundwork for the rest of the project. Observational studies to understand how firefighters navigate in unknown spaces and communicate information will follow.
From the partners’ side there will be no single representative responsible for the user workshops, instead teams from all partners as well as members from the fire brigade are invited to actively participate in the workshops.