• United States



by Paul Kerstein

Wearable Technology to Aid Disaster Relief

Sep 21, 20053 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

Wearable, interactive 3D technology being developed by the Universityof South Australia will be able to transfer people into ’mobileaugmented reality (AR) systems.’

Weighing in at 7kg, the technology consists of a computer which can becarried in a backpack, virtual reality goggles and an attached videocamera that can convey information to a control room via wireless LANor 3G networks.

Professor Bruce Thomas, director of the wearable computer laboratory atthe university, said the technology has the potential to dramaticallyimprove the effectiveness of disaster relief operations.

“By wearing the computers with virtual reality goggles and videocameras attached, field operatives at the problem location work inreal-time with supervisors and experts in a central control room,”Thomas said.

“People in the field provide digital images, videos, and voiceinformation which are then geospatially mapped to data sources in thecontrol room.”

The control center can also create 3D maps and images for field personnel to view via their goggles.

“If particular experts aren’t available in the disaster area, they candirect field staff from the control center. For example, suppose achemical plant is required to be shut down, an expert in the controlcenter can view the situation via the field operative’s wearabletechnology, and give directions to the field staff on how to close theplant, even circling which lever to operate in the field operative’sview through the goggles,” Thomas said.

The project consists of three components: the indoor visualizationcontrol room, the outdoor wearable AR system, and collaboration betweenthe indoor and outdoor systems.

Thomas said although his team has had a number of years experiencedeveloping and investigating control room technologies for intensecollaboration applications, such as defense planning, this solution hassome differences.

“There are a number of critical areas, [where this project isdifferent] such as visualization of real-time information from one ormore people in field, directing people in the field, communicating withpeople in the field with AR information, and the presentation of datain a temporal, coherent fashion,” he said.

The technology has a other potential uses, such as in viticulture or defense, Thomas said.

The project has been in development for over seven years and it wouldcost A$50,000 (US$38,360) for the university to build the completesystem.

There is nothing like this on the market at the moment, Thomas said,and the closest research projects are MARS( from ColombiaUniversity and BARS from the US Naval Research Lab(

Professor Thomas will detail this project and its applications at theSouth East Asian Regional Computer Confederation 2005 Conference(SEARCC 2005), in Sydney, from September 28 to 30, 2005.

The conference is being organized by IDG on behalf of SEARCC and theAustralian Computer Society. For more information about SEARCC 2005,and to register for the event, see

By Dahna McConnachie – Computerworld Today (Australia)