This augmented reality eyepiece lets firefighters see through smoke


No one disagrees that firefighters have a uniquely difficult job. Navigating a life-threatening blaze can be disorienting. Climate change means wildfires are getting more intense and more costly. Firefighters need all the help they can get.

Enter C-Thru by Qwake Technologies, the futuristic eyepiece that uses augmented reality (AR) so that firefighters can see through smoke.

“When you’re inside a structured fire, it’s difficult to see because there’s smoke everywhere and your senses are impaired,” Sam Cossman, CEO and co-founder of Qwake Technologies, told Digital Trends. “It’s difficult to think because you’re in such a stressful situation, which can cause cognitive function to decline and lead to bad decision-making.”

Firefighters wear C-Thru over one eye with their standard breathing apparatus. What they see when looking through it is an augmented reality video stream — a thermal camera and smart artificial intelligence image recognition work together to display outlines of objects and people in green.

This enables firefighters to “see,” or at least navigate, a smoke-filled room more efficiently.

Although firefighters have always used themeral cameras, the handheld devices require looking away from the threatening scene. C-Thru is totally hands-free. Cossman described the more seamless functionality as extending the user’s natural abilities with C-Thru’s sensors.

“We then display that sensor information with brain-friendly intuitive cues that could help you get the information you need right when you need it. That is the core underlying goal of our platform,” he said.

Another unique feature of the device is that it connects each of its wearers. The headsets make communicating and transmitting data to each other much easier. Thus, it’s an entire visual communication platform. While Qwake isn’t releasing all of the details just yet, Cossman expects it will hit the market in 2021.

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