Gizmos & Gadgets: Augmented Reality Comes to Fighting Fires

June 29, 2017 – Qwake Tech, a San Francisco startup has created an augmented reality system called C-Thru combining a futuristic augmented reality helmet equipped with thermal imaging, toxicity sensors, and edge detection to see what lies ahead in a disaster situation where smoke, dust and other impediments block normal vision.

Conceived initially by explorer, Sam Cossman, to assist in his work studying active volcanoes where visibility conditions when descending into a caldera are extremely limited, the C-Thru technology brought a team of engineers and neuroscientists together to produce the end product. The C-Thru augmented reality provides a wearer with a combined thermal and edge detection overlay in real time for a rescue worker or firefighter to successfully navigate a burning building or other disaster sites where human vision alone is impaired.


C-Thru augmented reality lets wearer see the hidden obstacles and dangers in search and rescue operations.


C-Thru technology is a wearable pack the size of a deck of playing cards. Combined with the augmented reality display built into the helmet, a firefighter or rescue worker can see through smoke and dust, and be alerted to potential toxicity and hotspot threats along the path ahead. The technology incorporates NVidia Tegra mobile processors and wireless communications to create “advanced situational awareness.”


                    Qwake Technology’s augmented reality helmet.


States Tom Calvert, Menlo Park Fire Protection District battalion chief, “The ability to see in the types of environments that we work in is a game-changer for our industry.” Wearing a C-Thru helmet gives search and rescue workers eyes in zero visibility conditions.

C-Thru technology is portable enough to be incorporated into robotic search and rescue for on-the-ground and flying drones. Imagine the implications for dealing with rescue after earthquakes, or combatting forest fires.

Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...