Researchers develop new helmet

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RESEARCHERS at Sheffield University have developed a special helmet – fitted with ultrasound sensors to help keep firefighters safe.

The helmet boasts sensors which can detect the distance between the firefighter wearing it and obstacles, including walls, when emergency workers are in smoky and dark conditions.

Signals are transmitted to vibration pads attached to the inside of the helmet, which touch the wearer’s forehead.

It is anticipated a lightweight version of the technology could also be useful to people with visual impairments, acting as an additional ‘sense’ to guide users or to help them avoid hazards.

Professor Tony Prescott, from the university, said: “When a firefighter is responding to an emergency situation he will be using his eyes and ears to make sense of his environment, trying to make out objects in a smoke-filled room, for example, or straining to hear sounds from people who might need rescuing.

“We found that in these circumstances it was difficult to process additional information through these senses.

“Using the sense of touch, however, we were able to deliver additional information effectively.”

A South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue spokesman said: “This is a potentially exciting development, which could be a useful tool to help firefighters searching in dark and smoke-filled environments.

“The project is at an early stage, but we are following it with interest and are happy to provide assistance as required.”

The helmet is to be on show at this year’s Gadget Show Live, to be held at the NEC in Birmingham until Sunday.

n For details, visit www.gadgetshowlive.net