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Chick magnets dress for success in emergencies



Chick magnets dress for success in emergencies

Civil defence services in the US are under unprecedented scrutiny since hurricane Katrina swamped not only New Orleans, but the police and other emergency services too.

One of the main points of failure in the system, it has emerged, was poor communications and co-ordination.

Researchers in South Australia and elsewhere are developing systems that provide a picture of events during an emergency, and also augment them with direct information feeds from the emergency command centre.

Last week at the South-East Asian Regional Computer Confederation conference in Sydney, Dr Bruce Thomas of the University of South Australia demonstrated prototype wearable computer systems that could allow emergency services workers to see the actual emergency situation and also receive visual instructions from commanders.

The technology is called "augmented reality" and it could allow a commander to point to a target and instruct field staff to go there.

In the field, workers would see the electronic equivalent of a hand coming out of the sky on their headset displays.

He says emergency services may currently receive a lot of data in the form of pictures from the field. These are typically displayed as tiled mosaics on screen and lack context. The wearable system could help field personnel and commanders understand what they are looking at.

The wearable system is called the Tinmith Endeavour backpack, more affectionately called "the chick magnet" by the research team.

Dr Thomas concedes much work needs to be done to reduce the size and improve the usability of the unit.

The researchers' experiments in augmented reality have led them to work on other projects that could have broader applications than the wearable system.

To improve communications, the emergency system needs to allow real-time collaboration between teams.

Collaborative computer systems such as Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes allow collaboration in different times between individuals. Electronic whiteboard systems and systems such as Microsoft's NetMeeting allow collaboration in real time between a certain number of individuals.

For emergency situations, and possibly other applications, collaboration has to be between multiple users in multiple locations in real time, or collaboration between groups of groups.

That has led to experiments in the development of what Dr Thomas calls "mixed presence groupware" that allows these groups of groups to interact and co-operate.

One such experimental system, VICAT (Visualisation and Interaction Collaborative Access Table), is in use between the universities of South Australia, Sydney and National Information and Communications Technology, also in Sydney.

The project has been led by Dr Wayne Piekarski and developed with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation.

Comments

  1. LOL, not recommended in thunderstorms. That guy looks more like a lightning magnet.

    z

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