May 29, 2024

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Firefighters test new technology in Linkenheim-Hochstetten

Firefighters test new technology in Linkenheim-Hochstetten

Fire digitization

Firefighters can practice in hazardous environments with “Firefighter Virtual Reality” software. The system has now been introduced in Linkenheim-Hochstetten.

Digitization is set to revolutionize the fire brigade.

Photo: Christine Lasky

Silas Fox opens the door. There is a fire in the room behind. Smoke rises. With a spear in his hand he extinguishes the flames. At least that’s how it looks in virtual reality. It is nothing more than a 3D computer generated environment.

In fact, Fuchs is in a room in the Linkenheim-Hochstetten fire brigade. No fire, no smoke. In each of his hands he holds a controller, which he moves accordingly. He wears virtual reality glasses on his head. Demonstrates how “VR Firefighter” works.

A specialized company working on a training solution

Fox demonstrates the potential of digitization in fire brigade training. The project manager from Northdocks came to the fire station for this Wednesday.

The company’s focus is on the medical and industrial sector, says Fox, but “VR Firefighter” is a heart project.

The mobile phone provider contributes its own knowledge

The event was organized by Tanja Marek of Vodafone. Vodafone collaborates with software developers as an infrastructure provider. There’s also reason to collaborate: “Data needs to be placed in a context relevant to training and use,” says Fox. But simulation has its limits, too. Therefore, it is not possible to imitate a real fire with all its properties.

Technology cannot replace many things, but it can support them.

Tanya Marek

Vodafone

Like Fuchs, Markus Wagner, chief of the fire brigade in Linkenheim-Hochstein: “Training with virtual reality should not replace training on real sites, but should be considered as complementary.”

“Technology cannot replace much, but it can support it,” Tanya Marek also says. Digitization makes it possible, for example, to practice dangerous situations without having to actually expose oneself to them. Maric says it’s also possible to do things that aren’t possible in the real world. In addition to the learning effect, another advantage is that no resources such as gas are consumed, Fox notes.

Various scenarios can be played

In his group, he has different workouts with different goals. For example, it is possible to practice putting out a vegetable fire. You can, for example, set the desired wind speed and direction. The fire area can also be changed at will.

“If there’s a need for training that doesn’t exist, we develop it,” says Fox. Firefighter experience is also required in order to create a real simulator.

If I have to wait 2 seconds for the image to spin, I get sick.

Silas Fox

Linkenheim-Hochstetten fire brigade

You can move your virtual hands using the controllers. This helps Fox, for example, to position and inflate the seat cushion. He then uses the teleporter in the virtual environment to climb into a building. You have previously chosen the desired height. Then he jumped on the pillow.

A man wearing virtual reality glasses.

Using special virtual reality glasses, firefighters can immerse themselves in a computer-generated scenario.

Photo: Christine Lasky

During training, it is possible not only to hold the sticks in your hands, but also to connect them to a real jet tube. This allows the user to play it out in real life – while the script is only on the computer.

Real time matters. Virtual reality must interact with the user’s actions in real time. Because Fuchs says regarding head movements or up-and-down movements: “If I had to wait two seconds for the picture to spin, I would get sick.” In addition, many users limit the network capacity.

The system should be faster

The goal then is to reduce latency, i.e. the delay time. The lower the latency, the more realistic the virtual environment appears.

Data should be sent as quickly as possible to a server in the immediate vicinity. Large bandwidth and low latency can be achieved through a powerful 5G network connected to edge computing.

Fuchs lists the consoles, VR goggles, and a gaming laptop as the minimum equipment for “VR Firefighters.” Firefighters can use their own nozzle.

Computer training can also be a source of inspiration for young people

Costs around 750 euros can be incurred for VR glasses including the console. According to Fuchs, there are different definitions for factory fire brigades and volunteer fire brigades. The latter pays about 2,400 euros for the program. The cost of a factory extinguishing unit is about 2000 euros. Regarding the purchase of “VR Firefighter”, it is also possible for several firefighting departments to work together.

Hans-Peter Hoffmann, leader of the volunteer fire brigade in Graben-Neudorf, considers the digitization of the fire brigade to be an important step. Young people are interested, but technology can make them a more attractive proposition. In addition, virtual reality offers many possibilities.

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