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Wearable technology developed for disaster relief

  • 13 September, 2005 15:20

<p>Wearable technology being developed at an Australian university could dramatically improve the effectiveness of disaster relief operations by creating a 3D interactive control room, linking relief coordinators to the disaster site.</p>
<p>The technology allows field staff at the disaster site wearing ‘mobile augmented reality systems’ to become the eyes and ears for response coordinators in a control room, possibility thousands of kilometres away.</p>
<p>Professor Bruce Thomas, Director of the Wearable Computer Laboratory at the University of South Australia, where this technology is being developed said the system is dramatically better than any currently available to manage natural disasters or other emergencies because information is relayed in 3D and in real time, enabling the devastated region to be viewed and assessed virtually – and extremely accurately.</p>
<p>“By wearing the computers with Virtual Reality goggles and video cameras attached, field operatives at the problem location work in real time with supervisors and experts in a central control room,” Professor Thomas said. “People in the field provide digital images, videos, and voice information that are geospatially mapped to data sources in the control room,” he said.</p>
<p>“The field operatives have first hand knowledge and context of the current problem, while the control centre has access to reference materials, a global picture, and advanced technology. This system effectively brings these two sources of information together to create a complete picture of events and ensure a more effective resolution.</p>
<p>“This enables the control room to make informed decisions about where to send resources, alert all people on the ground about dangerous areas and identify areas that need immediate attention. For instance, a field operative can quickly edit 3D representations of buildings showing which portions of the buildings have been damaged.</p>
<p>“It also means the control centre can create images for the operative to view on their goggles, such as asking them to investigate a particular place by directly marking it on a digital 3D map.</p>
<p>“If particular experts aren’t available in the disaster area, they can direct field staff from the control centre. For example, suppose a chemical plant is required to be shut down, an expert in the control centre can view the situation via the field operative’s wearable technology, and give directions to the field staff on how to close the plant, even circling which lever to operate in the field operative’s view through the goggles.</p>
<p>“While disaster relief is an obvious use of this technology, we are also currently using it in such diverse areas as defence and viticulture,” Professor Thomas said.</p>
<p>Professor Thomas will be discussing this wearable technology, its development and applications at the South East Asian Regional Computer Confederation 2005 Conference (SEARCC 2005) being held in Sydney in September.</p>
<p>He is one of more than 60 ICT experts and thought leaders who will be speaking at the conference, being attended by more than 600 delegates from leading businesses, government organisations and academic institutes from around the world.</p>
<p>SEARCC 2005 Chairman, Kumar Parakala, said the conference, titled ICT: Building Bridges, brings together CIOs and ICT practitioners from the South East Asian region to discuss future directions and uses of ICT in both the public and private sector.</p>
<p>“This conference gives ICT practitioners the opportunity to learn about the latest developments in ICT from around the globe and to showcase the best of the Australian ICT sector to an internal audience,” Mr Parakala said.</p>
<p>SEARCC 2005 ICT: Building Bridges Conference, hosted by the Australian Computer Society, will be held at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre 28-30 September. It incorporates the South East Asian Regional Computer Confederation annual conference and five other leading ICT events.</p>
<p>-ends-</p>
<p>Media contact:</p>
<p>John Back</p>
<p>Kinetics</p>
<p>Ph: 02 9976 6611</p>
<p>john@kinetics.com.au</p>

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