Innovative Development – ‘Sixth Sense’ Helmet

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

6124559_sA team of researchers from the University of Sheffield (Center for Robotics – SCentRo), has developed an innovative helmet designed for use by rescue forces, which includes antennas and sensors providing data and vital clues about the surrounding environment. The helmet is based on the study of rodents who use their ‘bristly mustache’ as sensors / antenna, in order to receive alerts on nearby hazards.

“The Antenna Helmet ” is intended to provide firefighters with vital information about the environment, while working in challenging conditions (such as in darkness or in buildings filled with smoke). The helmet is equipped with a number of ultrasound sensors used to detect the distance between walls or other obstacles nearby. This information is passed on to the firefighter wearing the helmet through vibrations he can feel on his forehead.

Professor Prescott, the manager of SCentRo, explained that when a firefighter is working in a state of emergency, he expands his concentration trying to maintain a sense of vision through the smoke in the room as well as in trying to hear the voices of people who might need to be saved. Therefore, he preferred to use the option of notifying the firefighter through his helmet concerning possible obstacles by sending signals to him through vibrations to his forehead rather than taxing his already overloaded senses. Although it might appear that the ultimate choice for transfer of signals from the helmet might be obtained through visible fingertips, Professor Prescott concluded that a study precisely demonstrated that stimuli transferred to the forehead, allowed for shorter response time, as well as offering the advantage of leaving the firefighters hands available for other tasks.

During the presentation of the prototype, it was reported that the innovative helmet was developed in a project that lasted two years and was funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. During the development of the helmet assistance was received and great support offered by the rescue services of South Yorkshire. This assistance helped the developers by providing advice and guidance, as well as access to the training facility of the rescue services.

The developers of the ‘Antenna Helmet’ are now actively seeking a commercial partner interested in supporting its’ final development and production. A model of the helmet will be displayed at the ‘Gadget Show Live’ to be held in Birmingham this week. Plans are also underway for a lighter and future version of the helmet  which could help people with visual impairments by serving as another means to guide and help them avoid risks or danger.