Wearable Sensor Pack Turns Emergency Responders Into Human Maps

Wearable Sensor Pack Turns Emergency Responders Into Human Maps

MIT's prototype sensor system lets first responders create digital maps of the affected area, enabling others to get a more detailed and accurate description.

Emma Hutchings
  • 25 september 2012

Researchers at MIT have developed a prototype sensor system that would let first responders in disaster zones create digital maps so those not present could get a detailed description of the area. The wearable system automatically creates a map of the environment using a laser rangefinder, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and a camera. The gyroscopes could infer when the rangefinder was tilted and the accelerometers provided some information about the wearer’s velocity and changes in altitude.

Every few meters, the camera takes a snapshot of its surroundings, and software extracts hundreds of visual features from the image. Also connected to the sensor system was a handheld pushbutton device that the wearer could use to annotate the map, identifying particular locations as points of interest. The researchers envision that emergency responders could use a similar system to add voice or text tags to the map to indicate things like structural damage or a toxic spill.

The prototype system is described in a paper, which is slated for the Intelligent Robots and Systems conference in Portugal next month. Check out the video below to find out more:


Photo by Patrick Gillooly/MIT


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