Firefighter HUD


Firefighters need to perform rescue operations and fight fires in conditions where they may not be able to see (e.g., dark, smoky, etc…).

Design a prototype of a display that would facilitate:

  • Identification of fellow firefighters and their status (e.g., how they are, what their vitals are, how much oxygen they have left. etc..).
  • Provide navigational information to assist him or her in negotiating and search through the building to find civilians that need help.


Here is a hand-drawn image of the envisioned heads-up display. The components of the design will be explained in the write-up.

What features could you envision being provided on the display?

The display needs to be able to help the firefighter locate other personnel from the group as well as civilians in the building even with smoke present. A possible solution is that each heads-up display is tagged for the individual firefighter. Therefore, if a firefighter is in the field-of-view of the display, the initials of the firefighter are shown as illustrated in the diagram. Furthermore, civilians could be located with the help of infrared technology fitted on top of the display. Civilians would not have the firefighter initials pop-up and hence they could be identified. Also, the infrared would only be turned on when required.

What will the display look like? What size, where will it be?

The display will be cast on the visor of the firefighter’s helmet. This is the best place for the information being presented by the system. The firefighter does not need to change focus to obtain the information. Also, the visor is large enough to present all the necessary information.

How could you ensure that the system helped rather than overloaded the firefighter?

It is paramount that the necessary information is presented to the firefighter without overloading them. Therefore, it is important to not crowd the display. Information needs to be presented succintly. To ensure this, the vitals of the fellow firefighters are displayed by symbols. The oxygen level is depicted by three circles below their initials. Three circles means oxygen level is above 75%. Two circles means it is above 50% and one circle means that is above 25%. If the oxygen level drops below 25%, the initials of the firefighter start flashing. The heart rate and the well-being of firefighters is conveyed by a symbol to the right of the initials. A check mark means that everything is normal. A caution sign means that something is not right and it needs attention. Additional information about the warning is displayed at the bottom of the visor. Additionally, the firefighters outside the field-of-view are tucked away to the right of the display along with all their information. This is done to prevent overcrowding the field-of-view.

What strategies will you use to guide visual attention appropriately?

The job of a firefighter is demanding on all fronts. They have to be maintain visual and auditory focus (communication with supervisor and other firefighters). Therefore, it was determined that a tactile warning be used to convey to the firefighter that they have a situation which needs attention. It was decided that a thin band be worn by each of them which vibrates when something needs attention as conveyed by their display. This way, their visual and auditory channels are not given an additional load.