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Virtual reality display may help firefighters see through smoke, fire

  |   June 18, 2013 at 4:09 PM
VIENNA, June 18 (UPI) -- Austrian scientists say a virtual reality display system may help firefighters see through smoke and flames to locate a fire and their position relative to it.

Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology say their virtual reality project, called ProFiTex, could give firefighters a heads-up display to help them navigate in the dark.

Head-mounted infrared sensors would overlay surface temperatures onto the display, which would also show a 3D model of the surroundings created by a head-mounted camera to give firefighters an idea of what temperatures around them are and whether it is safe to enter a room, NewScientist.com reported Tuesday.

"We basically reproduce the real environment virtually," project leader Hannes Kaufmann said. "It can be invisible for the firefighter, so we give him a model which is visible, and we enhance it with thermal data. If a room wall is dark red from the outside, then it's dangerous inside."

The data can also be sent to a fire crew outside, allowing them to make decisions about fighting the fire based on accurate real-time information, the researchers said.

The data would travel over a fiber optic cable woven into the rope often used by firefighters as a guide to the safe way out of a dangerous burning structure, they said.

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